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U.K. Minister Says ‘No Immediate Concern’ on Gas Supplies

·3-min read

(Bloomberg) -- There’s “no immediate concern” about fuel supplies running short for consumers in the U.K., Conservative MP Alok Sharma said Sunday.

Sharma, president of the COP26 climate initiative, also told Sky News that government officials “don’t see any risks going into winter” from rising gas prices about to hit British households.

“People should be confident that the supplies will be there, and that we will be protecting them in terms of price rises,” Sharma said on “Trevor Philipps on Sunday.” “But of course we’re not complacent about this.”

Top U.K. officials are in emergency talks that will continue into Monday, led by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Read more: Energy Crisis Brings Fresh Chaos for Battered U.K. Food Supplies

Kwarteng met Saturday with senior executives from energy companies and regulators to discuss the jump in gas prices that’s threatened to shut suppliers and disrupt industries from fertilizer to meat.

He was due to meet with the U.K. energy regular Ofgem on Sunday and hold further talks with executives on Monday to plan a way forward.

Read more: Europe Faces Bleak Winter Energy Crisis Years in the Making

Europe’s energy crisis has helped push natural gas prices to records in the U.K. The squeeze in supplies and the jump in prices has forced at least five U.K. providers to shut.

The executives assured Kwarteng there was no threat to supplies as the country moves into the colder winter months.

“Ofgem has robust measures in place to ensure that customers do not need to worry, their needs are met, and their gas and electricity supply will continue uninterrupted if a supplier fails,” the government said in a statement.

Read more: U.K. Energy Suppliers Go Out of Business As Prices Jump

Natural gas is crucial to power generation for homes and industry and for heating in winter, with more than 22 million households connected to the grid in 2020.

Bills will go up for 11 million households from Oct. 1, pressuring an inflation rate that has unexpectedly accelerated above the Bank of England’s 2% target.

The knock-on effects are piling up. Meat processors face a shortage of carbon dioxide (C02) as fertilizer plants are taken off line in the face of soaring energy costs. The gas has multiple uses in food packaging and transport, as well as in slaughterhouses.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, told Times Radio on Sunday the industry faces a major crisis within two weeks and the potential for supply disruptions to interrupt delivery of goods at Christmas.

“This crisis underscores that the U.K. food supply chain is at the mercy of a small number of major fertilizer manufacturers in Northern Europe,” Allen said.

(Updates with comment from meat processor group in final three paragraphs.)

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