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Trade body warns firms may be forced to scale back production amid energy crisis

A trade body which represents the collective interests of the UK’s ceramic industry has warned that manufacturers may be forced to scale back production due to spiralling gas prices.

The British Ceramic Confederation (BCC), which is based in Stoke-on-Trent, is calling for government help for its members amid the ongoing energy crisis – which threatens to have a major impact on energy intensive industries such as pottery.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has recently tried to reassure firms that the government will help them get through the situation, and made reference to existing support schemes.

But there are concerns ministers are not taking the energy crisis seriously enough.

Manufacturers are calling for a cap on gas prices and guarantees around supply.

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BBC chief executive Dr Laura Cohen said: “I am really concerned that the Secretary of State hasn’t understood the urgency of what we’re asking for.

“We need practical gas emergency measures that keep enough gas available and our factories going when supplies get tight.

“The Government needs to act now to keep the businesses, jobs and investment in these essential foundation industries here as the beating heart supporting our economy.”

Jon Flitney, energy and innovation manager at the BCC, told StokeonTrentLive that energy now accounts for up to 65 per cent of production costs for some ceramics firms – up from around a third before the crisis.

He added: “Many ceramic companies have already purchased much of their energy for the upcoming winter and so will not have to fully pay the higher prices immediately.

“However, a small number of members are already facing higher gas, electricity and carbon prices now – higher than paid by their international competitors – which is leading some to consider scaling back production. As the high prices continue more members will begin to be affected.

“The ceramics sector does not benefit from government support to the same level as other energy intensive industries. We urge the government to take actions to limit the impact of high market prices, whether to help members now or through the rest of winter.

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“Our members would be very reassured if gas emergency measures were changed, which would give protection to their kilns and equipment in the event of a network emergency.

“The government needs to act to keep the businesses, jobs and investment in the UK’s essential foundation industries as the beating heart supporting our economy.”

In an interview with the BBC, Paul Farmer – who runs Stoke-on-Trent-based Wade Ceramics – said: “We spend roughly a million pounds a year on gas and electricity. Twenty per cent of that obviously equals £200,000 and the spikes we are seeing at the moment are way more than 20 per cent.

“So for a full year, potentially (the rise) could be as much as half-a-million pounds, which would wipe the bottom line out.”

He added: “As it happens, we are 100 per cent covered until about February time but post-February, if the prices stay where they are then, we’re going to start feeling it.”

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