World Economy

France Hit by Multi-National Poultry Ban

France Hit by Multi-National Poultry BanFrance Hit by Multi-National Poultry Ban

Eight countries, including Japan and Morocco, have suspended imports of French poultry after the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was detected in southwestern France, home to many foie gras and poultry producers, the agriculture ministry said.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus killed 22 chickens out of 32 kept in a family back yard at Biras in the Perigord region, officials said on November 25. It was the first outbreak in eight years to hit the EU’s biggest agricultural producer, RFI reported.

An official at the ministry said South Korea, China, Thailand, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia were the other countries to suspend imports. She declined to give further details.

France’s health and safety agency has been evaluating the strain’s degree of danger to humans, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told reporters last week, insisting there was no risk of transmission by eating food.

The outbreak comes just before demand for foie gras, produced from duck or goose liver, peaks over the year-end holiday season, but officials play down any impact.

Sales of French foie gras were worth about €2 billion ($2.18 billion) at the wholesale level last year.

The French government banned on Thursday exports of French live birds and eggs for hatching coming from the southwestern area of Dordogne, the only French area infected with the avian flu. Containment measures have been applied, a close monitoring of 70 neighboring farms has been set up and more than 14,000 ducks and 1,000 geese have been culled earlier this week.

“The avian flu cannot be transmitted to humans through food, meat, nor eggs and foie gras,” the ministry said repeatedly.

“Unfortunately some countries’ first reaction is to close their borders and only then to discuss strategy,” Evain regrets as South Korea imposed its ban last week on all French poultry although the ban does not concern the entire French territory but only the Dordogne area.

South Korea is one of the largest importers of French foie gras along with Japan, and imported in 2015 one ton of French duck meat, 13 tons of foie gras, 884,000 chicks and 41,000 ducklings.

Fortunately “for the time being there is no decision” to block French poultry by Persian Gulf Arab region states which are major consumers, said Evain.

More than a third of the French poultry meat is exported, mostly to the Middle East region and the European Union.