THE Government has been urged to take control of the crisis in the gas industry before it spirals out of control and inflicts severe damage on the economy.
Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger says ministers must act ‘within days rather than weeks’ to return stability to the sector and guarantee supplies not only of gas but of fertiliser and CO2.
A huge hike in gas prices exacerbated by interruption to electricity supplies from France has led to many smaller suppliers facing extinction.
But apart from the domestic gas situation the closure of two major fertiliser plants on Teesside and in Cheshire – in each case because of the current gas price – has led to agricultural suppliers facing a desperate shortage and cut supplies of CO2, a by-product of the manufacturing process which is used to make dry ice. As a result deliveries of frozen foods are beginning to be affected.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said few consumers could have known of the connection between farm fertilisers and frozen farm products, such as peas and beans.
“Now the complex inter-relationship of two apparently disparate sectors has been revealed it’s no wonder consumers are starting to get nervous,” he said.
“And since a fragmented gas industry already appears to be beset by impending business failures it is clearly the Government’s responsibility to step in and take charge.
“I am afraid this situation has revealed the fragility of certain areas of the economy which have been rather like an inverted pyramid balancing on the going rate for gas.
“Markets being what they are I am certain at least some of the price hikes we have seen recently will be reversed sooner or later. But the Government cannot afford the luxury of sitting back and waiting for it to happen.
“Farmers need fertilisers or we shall be facing the prospect of vastly lower yields and possibly food shortages. This all needs resolving within a matter of days rather than weeks.”