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‘Chicken King’ warns Christmas could be cancelled due to shortages

The boss of one of the UK’s biggest chicken producers has warned that Christmas could be cancelled due to a lack of CO2.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group based in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, says the decision by the US owner of two of Britain’s biggest CO2 producers to halt production was “irresponsible and catastrophic for our sector.”

CO2 is used in packaging to extend shelf-life of meat and is vital in the cooling systems used for refrigeration purposes.

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Mr Boparan, known as the Chicken King, wants the Government to intervene or claims we will have ‘another cancelled Christmas’.

Mr Boparan said: “There are less than 100 days left until Christmas and Bernard Matthews and my other poultry businesses are working harder than ever before to try and recruit people to maintain food supplies.

“Nothing has fundamentally changed since I spoke about this issue in July.

“In fact I take no pleasure in pointing out that the gaps on the shelves I warned about then are getting bigger by the day.

The Two Sisters Food Group headquarters on Dial Lane, Hilltop, West Bromwich

“The supply of Bernard Matthews turkeys this Christmas was already compromised as I need to find 1,000 extra workers to process supplies.

“Now with no CO2 supply, Christmas will be cancelled.

“The C02 issue is a massive body blow and puts us at breaking point, it really does – that’s poultry, beef, pork, as well as the wider food industry.

“Without CO2, the bottom line is there is less throughput and with our sector already compromised with lack of labour, this potentially tips us over the edge.”

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A commercial decision by CE Industries to halt fertiliser production at two plants in the UK (at Stockton-on-Tees and Ince in Cheshire) – where CO2 is the main by product – means food processing and production plants owned by Mr Boparan will lack the ability to produce at normal levels.

He added: “When poultry cannot be processed it means they must be kept on farms where there are potential implications for animal welfare, so the overall effect is welfare compromised and greatly reduced supply.

“Ready Meals lose that vital shelf life. There is potential for massive food waste across the board.”

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