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Bird flu fears halt poultry farming in southwest France

Iroz Gaizka, AFP | Ducks roaming in an outdoor enclosure at a farm in the southwestern French town of Benesse-Maremne on December 10, 2015

Poultry farmers in southwest France have been urged to halt production of geese and ducks as part of efforts to eradicate bird flu, the agriculture ministry said on Thursday.


The highly virulent H5N1 strain of the virus was identified at a farm in the southwest region of Dordogne – famed for its foie gras – in November, prompting a number of countries around the world to ban French poultry imports.

Since then, H5N1 has been detected on 69 farms in southwest France.

In a bid to eradicate the disease, the agriculture ministry issued a statement on Thursday urging farmers to not hatch any new chicks starting from January 18, when a massive sanitation operation is due to begin in the region. Farmers have also been instructed not to cull birds already in the process of being raised.

"This plan will allow the re-establishment of healthy ducklings, in sanitised farms, by the end of the first semester. Production will then be able to resume to ensure production for the year-end festivities," the ministry statement said.

Foie gras makers said the freezing of output for several months would have a major economic impact on the industry, pegged at between €250-300 million ($271.5-325.8 million).

Japan - the world’s leading importer of foie gras – was among the countries to ban French poultry products.

"State compensation to farmers will be essential to support this very heavy burden," French foie gras producers group CIFOG said in a statement.

France, which produces 75 percent of global foie gras, exported 4,934 tonnes of it in 2014.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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