French foie gras output falls amidst avian influenza outbreaks

Output had fallen 20% in 2021 from the previous year
calendar icon 17 March 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

French foie gras output will fall for the third consecutive year in 2022 after a severe wave of avian influenza led to the culling of millions of animals in southwestern France and a second wave is spreading fast in the west, producers said on Wednesday.

France is trying to contain outbreaks of avian influenza which has spread rapidly since last month in the Pays de la Loire region, a major poultry zone further up France's Atlantic coast, reported Reuters.

Foie gras is made from the livers of geese or ducks fattened with grain, usually by force feeding. Output had fallen 20% in 2021 from the previous year to 11,674 tonnes, for a total decline of 30% since 2019.

Avian influenza is often carried by migrating wild birds. The extremely aggressive and highly contagious H5N1 strain has been spreading quickly in Europe in recent months, prompting massive culls in several countries.

In France, producers of duck and geese delicatessen traditionally have been severely hit by avian influenza crises due to their flock density and their birds usually being kept outside.

"Our sector is going through a very severe crisis, maybe the worse ever," Eric Dumas, chairman of foie gras producers group CIFOG, told reporters.

A complete shutdown of farms in the southwest, which represents 40% of French foie gras output, had limited outbreaks and a production restart was due on 29 March in the region.

But the sudden wave of outbreaks since the end of February in the Pays de Loire, relatively spared so far, further darkened the outlook, as the region provides 72% of the chicks needed to restart output, they said.

Producers also called for a rise in prices to make up for soaring energy and grain costs, as ducks mostly eat maize.

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