The government has about “10 days” to sort out the CO2 shortage crisis, with one week before poultry stunning starts to stop, Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation has warned.

The ultimatum comes amid warnings the food sector is facing a fresh shortage of CO2 gas that could “dwarf” the crisis that led to widespread food and drink shortages in 2018.

Fertiliser manufacturer CF Industries, which produces as much as 60% of the UK’s industrial CO2 needs, has been forced to halt operations at two plants, as a result of soaring natural gas and wholesale energy prices.

CO2 gas is a key input for food manufacturers for a host of uses, ranging from the cooling of meat to the stunning of animals and in the modified atmosphere packaging used to prolong the shelf life of fresh foods.

The government has been urged to subsidize the supplier.

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng on Monday told parliament that the government was monitoring the situation “minute by minute” and had “explored quite thoroughly possible ways to secure vital supplies [of CO2]”.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “It’s not just a food issue, it’s an animal welfare issue.

“Production of chicken and other poultry will be pretty severely impacted in the next few days . . . The continuity of food supply to Christmas is right on the edge.”

The British Soft Drinks Association said some of its members only had a few days of CO2 supply left in reserve.

“As it stands, most CO2 suppliers are currently not scheduling beyond 24 hours in advance, meaning there is no visibility as to UK stocks and no certainty around deliveries,” The BSDA said. “If soft drinks manufacturers cannot get hold of CO2 supplies after their reserves have run out, production of certain products will have to cease.”

Craft beer breweries also fear their production will be thrown into chaos by shortages of carbon dioxide.

While bigger drinks producers have been able to access CO2 recovery plants, smaller breweries said they were reliant on the main suppliers.