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French AI outbreak slowly easing

There is light at the end of the tunnel for the French duck industry as the spread of avian influenza, which has decimated the industry in the south west of the country, has slowed in the past 2 weeks.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll has suggested that the crisis could be ending, as he told reporters "everything suggests that we will soon reach the end of this outbreak. The number of suspected cases is in sharp decline."

 The fast spread of bird flu prompted the government to order a massive cull of ducks, higher security measures and the fallowing of farms in part of the southwest since January. Photo: EPA/Caroline Blumberg
The fast spread of bird flu prompted the government to order a massive cull of ducks, higher security measures and the fallowing of farms in part of the southwest since January. Photo: EPA/Caroline Blumberg

4 million poultry destroyed

France, which has the largest poultry flock in Europe, has been among the countries most severely hit by the highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus that propagated in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Some 465 outbreaks of H5N8 have been detected and 4 million poultry destroyed because of the virus, mainly in southwestern France, home to most foie gras producers, Reuters reports.

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The fast spread of bird flu prompted the government to order a massive cull of ducks, higher security measures and the fallowing of farms in part of the southwest since January. Duck farmers will be able to resume production in restricted areas by the end of May at the latest, as initially planned, provided the situation remains stable.

Foei gras production hard hit

Ducks and geese, mostly produced for their livers that are artificially swollen through force-feeding to make foie gras, are most exposed to the virus due to free-range rearing and transport of animals between farms. Foie gras producers this month said the crisis would lead to a rise in prices of the delicacy and suggested a change in production methods to protect poultry flocks.

Chicken production, less exposed to H5N8, has resumed in some regions where the virus is considered to be under control and the area will be extended gradually to most of the southwest in coming weeks, Le Foll said.

Le Foll, facing growing criticism that delays in public aid has threatened many farmers' businesses, promised to reimburse in due time lack of earnings when farmers culled their birds or halted production due to bird flu.

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