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Down on the farm, UK power disaster looms giant

A surge in wholesale fuel costs has led to a scarcity of fertiliser and carbon dioxide, hitting the livestock business and provide chains.

The tranquil panorama of flat farmland and small villages within the Essex countryside in southeast England appears a world away from Britain’s escalating power disaster.

But fertiliser and carbon dioxide shortages are starting to chew at locations like Wicks Manor Farm, which rears pigs for pork and grows crops.

“We’ve got some real concerns (and) quite frightening consequences to farming, as an industry throughout the UK, certainly to our farming business here,” proprietor Fergus Howie instructed AFP, barely audible over his pigs’ squeals.

“There’s a lot of issues and they’re all kind of coming together,” he added, saying the state of affairs had prompted “real concerns” concerning the “immediate food supply chain”.

Howie’s farm and butchery, within the idyllic Essex countryside some 50 miles (80 kilometres) northeast of London, sells pork to main supermarkets, eating places, cafes, and for export.

Wheat and barley grown over 4,400 acres (almost 11,000 hectares) are used to feed the animals and bought wholesale.

Fertiliser is required for the crops, and CO2 for the humane slaughter of livestock, in addition to within the manufacturing and packaging of sausages, burgers, bacon and ham.

If the shortages proceed, there are fears farms like Wicks Manor could possibly be left unable to cull animals and low yield harvests will probably be economically unviable.

Production of fertiliser relies on natural gas. C02, its by-product, is used to stun animals before slaughter
Production of fertiliser depends on pure fuel. C02, its by-product, is used to stun animals earlier than slaughter.


Britain isn’t alone in being hit by surging gas prices, attributable to a worldwide provide scarcity, inflicting a spike in wholesale prices that threaten to hike payments for shoppers.

But the sharp improve led two UK fertiliser manufacturing websites, which depend on pure fuel to halt operations final week, with a knock-on impact on livestock farming and the provision chain.

Carbon dioxide is a by-product of fertiliser manufacturing and the 2 crops account for as much as 60 p.c of Britain’s CO2 provide.

Farmers like Howie now fear there is not going to be sufficient to go spherical.

The UK authorities introduced Tuesday a monetary help take care of CF Fertilisers, the US agency that runs the largest of the 2 amenities, to restart manufacturing at one website.

But the settlement, which ministers concede may find yourself costing British taxpayers tens of tens of millions of kilos, will solely final for 3 weeks—and produce a fraction of the CO2 wanted.

Two UK fertiliser production plants shut down because of the surge in wholesale gas prices
Two UK fertiliser manufacturing crops shut down due to the surge in wholesale fuel costs.

“Three weeks isn’t exactly going to cut the mustard,” mentioned Howie, whose grandfather started farming in Essex almost a century in the past.

“It’s been an actual shock to the business… how vital these two crops within the UK are to the meals chain that all of us must have meals accessible in our retailers.

“It’s loopy that there are solely two crops, it is loopy that they’re each below foreign investment.”

‘Welfare points’

Wicks Manor Farm, which opened in its present kind in 1967, usually has as much as 3,000 pigs on-site, together with some 250 sows giving start year-round.

It sends round 110 animals to slaughter each Friday, releasing up space in its open strawed yards for brand spanking new piglets.

On Wednesday, 20 pens housing newly-born suckling piglets have been full. In 5 weeks, they are going to transfer out into the larger yards—if there’s space.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has signed a deal to enable the plants to restart production for three weeks
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has signed a deal to allow the crops to restart manufacturing for 3 weeks.

“We need to have pigs go off so that we have got room for those new animals to come into the farm environment,” mentioned Howie.

“Welfare issues will become quite significant if abattoirs say they’re stopping because these two plants have stopped production.”

Before the CO2 disaster, Howie was already sending 25 p.c fewer pigs to slaughter as a result of continual workers shortages at abattoirs attributable to a “double whammy” of Brexit and the pandemic.

He mentioned Britain has lengthy been too reliant on jap European labour that’s now disappearing and topic to harder post-Brexit immigration necessities.

Short-term, he needs the federal government to safe “consistency of supply” for each fertiliser and CO2, earlier than tackling the longer-term issues round resilience.

“We need to start looking at why we have such a fragile food supply chain in the UK,” the 46-year-old mentioned, urging “funding in additional crops (and) completely different applied sciences so we do not depend on natural gas” and imports.

  • Supermarkets have seen empty shelves due to a shortage of certain foods, exacerbated by the gas crisis, as well as a lack of lor
    Supermarkets have seen empty cabinets as a result of a scarcity of sure meals, exacerbated by the fuel disaster, in addition to an absence of lorry drivers post-Brexit.
  • An inability to slaughter animals will create welfare issues, farmers say
    An incapacity to slaughter animals will create welfare points, farmers say.
  • Farmers say the crisis has shown the fragility of the food supply chain in the UK
    Farmers say the disaster has proven the fragility of the meals provide chain within the UK.

If the federal government fails to handle the problems adequately, the father-of-three fears for the way forward for his family-run agency.

“When you’re running a farming business for three generations, there’s a lot of passion, a lot of involvement,” he mentioned.

“We’ve got to make sure that we have something that hopefully we can pass to the next generation—we don’t want to be the ones that trip over holding it.”

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© 2021 AFP

Down on the farm, UK power disaster looms giant (2021, September 22)
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