Shoppers may soon suffer through eerie flashbacks to the first days of lockdown, some 18 months ago, as supplies of toilet roll are set dwindle almost to nothing accoring to an industry insider.
This time, it’s not panic-buying that’s to blame so much as surging energy prices.
Energy bills for households across the UK have already risen sharply and experts say they could rise by another £400 by next summer.
And those increased costs also affect industry. Andrew Large, director-general at the Confederation of Paper Industries, said manufacturers are being “affected very, very severely” by the rising price of energy.
Manufacturers of toilet roll and food packaging are among the hardest-hit, he says: “They’re seeing their costs go up through the roof.
“It’s damaging their profitability,” Mr Large added, “and in some cases it’s causing them to manage their production rates so as not to expose themselves to the very, very highest costs.”
The UK is more vulnerable to rising gas prices than many other countries because we’re more likely to use natural gas to heat our homes.
The UK also has less storage capacity after the government allowed the closure of a plant which stored three-quarters of the country’s natural gas.
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There’s a global shortage of gas and, now that we’ve left the EU, we’re more exposed to the price shocks of a volatile market.
Last week, industry experts warned that supermarkets might soon run out of meat because of a shortage of gas.
The gas shortage has had a knock-on effect on supplies of carbon dioxide. Two large plants, on Teesside and in Cheshire, have stopped work because of rises in wholesale gas prices.
That affects the availability of beer and soft drinks as well as certain types of packaging for fresh food.
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The shortage could hit pork and chicken formers particularly hard, because 80% of pigs and poultry are slaughtered using carbon dioxide.
Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told the Sky News at the end of last month that producers are telling him they have “anything between five, 10 and 15 days supply” remaining.
"The animals have to stay on farm. They'll cause farmers on the farm huge animal welfare problems and British pork and British poultry will disappear off the shelves."
The government has stepped in to help Britain’s main carbon dioxide producer in the short term but the food industry is expected to have to have to pay five times more for carbon dioxide in future – with prices rising from £200 per tonne to £1,000.
A fire at a large power facility in Kent that brings in electricity from France has also made a dent in the UK’s energy supply.
Together with ongoing fuel shortages and the unavailability of cheap labour from Europe to help with food production the UK looks set for a very bleak winter.
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