Calls for Government to solve nationwide shortage of liquid CO2

Exporters say a nationwide shortage of liquid CO2 is severely impacting New Zealand's food exports, particularly by air.

It's prompted calls for the Government to step in and provide better access to the essential gas.

Dry ice is a hot commodity for exporters right now because it's so hard to get hold of.

"It's a real problem," said ExportNZ spokesperson Catherine Beard.

Liquid CO2 creates dry ice, and keeps perishable goods fresh when exporting overseas. But since New Zealand's only food-grade CO2 plant's been shut since Christmas due to safety reasons, ExportNZ said it's causing a major shortage.

"That's a real issue, particularly for goods that are exported by air," said Beard.

Todd Energy owns the Kapuni CO2 plant and can't confirm when the site will reopen, leaving Kiwi exporters to source it from overseas.

"It costs a whole lot more money, and has an impact on exporters' competitiveness and it means you're competing with countries that have no shortage of CO2," Beard said.

The Marsden Point Refinery Plant in Northland also produced CO2, but was decommissioned last year.

National said it should never have shut.

"A Cabinet paper warned that when the refinery closed we would face this sort of issue, a lack of diversity when it comes to supply," said National's energy resources spokesperson Stuart Smith.

The Opposition's calling on the Government to step in.

"The Government should get off its backside and do as much work as it can to investigate what the options are to get more CO2, and to increase our supply," Smith said.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said the Government's aware of the problem and is closely monitoring the situation. She insisted officials are engaging with suppliers to find solutions and improve supply.

Exporters hoping for a solution soon as they say the shortage is unsustainable.