Tegel is warning that it may not be able to produce some chicken products because of a shortage of carbon dioxide gas in New Zealand that is also threatening brewers and fizzy drinks makers.
The Food and Grocery Council said the availability of cheese, preserved meats, sparkling wine and ready-to-eat meals could also suffer, with price rises possible.
The Brewers Association and the Beverage Council separately voiced concerns about the gas shortage on Saturday.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used widely in the food industry – including in packaging to preserve the shelf life of chicken – and to add fizz to drinks, as well as in other industries such as healthcare.
Businesses used to get much of their supply from the Marsden Point oil refinery, which produced CO2 as a by-product of its refining operation until that was closed at the end of March.
Now the only remaining domestic source of liquid and other food-grade CO2 is a production plant attached to Todd Energy’s Kapuni gas field in Taranaki.
Todd Energy confirmed last week that production at the plant, which was built in 1969, had been reduced “with planned maintenance impacting production through to mid-August”.
Tegel said in a statement supplied by the Food and Grocery Council that, following the closure of the Marsden Point refinery, its supply of CO2 had been “significantly rationed” and it had seen costs for food grade CO2 increase substantially.
“Whilst we have been able to take steps in the short term to reduce the impact of the CO2 shortage on our production, the ongoing supply constraint may impact our ability to produce some of Tegel’s products over the coming months,” it said.
Carbon dioxide can be imported, but Beverage Council spokesperson Emily Fuller has described that as an expensive option because of high freight costs and the fact the gas needs to be transported in heavy cannisters.
A Food and Grocery Council spokesman said the issues at Todd’s Kapuni plant were a concern, given it was now the only domestic source of food grade CO2 in the country.
Carbon dioxide was used as a preservative for meat, cheese, and ready-to-eat meals, as well as to make fizzy beverages, such as beer, bubbly, and soft drinks, he said.
“If this situation isn’t resolved, before long there could be a shortage of those products on supermarket shelves and prices could even rise as a result,” he said.
“Some of our members have been told they will be getting just 50% to 55% of orders. Manufacturers will have stocks of CO2 and product on hand but they won’t last indefinitely.”