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France resumes foie gras exports to Japan after bird flu ban

media Jars of foie gras AFP

France can now sell foie gras in Japan again, following a ban on exports due to two outbreaks of bird flu, Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert announced on Friday.

Japan is the world's largest importer of foie gras, the engorged livers of forcefed ducks or geese, and France is the world's largest exporter.

But an outbreak of the H5N1 virus in 2015-16 deprived France of the status necessary to export outside Europe, cutting off important markets in Japan, China and Saudi Arabia.

And there was a further outbreak, this time of H5N8, in 2016-17 as the country was on the brink of being given the all-clear.

On Friday the World Organisation for Animal Health declared France virus-free and Japan was the first country to react by lifting its ban on French foie gras exports.

Compensation on way

France is negotiating compensation for foie gras producers' losses with the European Commission and 20 million euros will soon be available for effects of the first outbreak.

Foie gras producers this week announced that the cull declared to stamp out the virus reduced the number of ducks involved in production to 23 million, 20 percent lower than in 2016 and 40 percent lower than in 2015.

Travert warned that it was necessary to remain vigilant against new outbreaks, which are usually carried by migratory birds, and have also hit Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and Cyprus.

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