An outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in southwestern France has threatened foie gras production, and now the Ministry of Agriculture has ordered farmers to stop raising geese and ducks until at least May in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus.
According to The Local, after the outbreak was detected, several countries banned imports of French poultry. Critically, Japan banned imports of French foie gras in November, and Japan was reportedly the top importer of French foie gras for most of 2015.
Japan says the foie gras ban will remain in place for 90 days after all the farms in France that have tested positive for the presence of H5N1 have completed all necessary sanitization and the destruction of all infected birds. Once that is done and 90 days have passed, the people of Japan will once again be able to import the luxury liver.
As part of the clean-up efforts, the French Agriculture Ministry has ordered farmers to halt their foie gras production until the cleanup is complete. Farmers can continue to fatten the un-infected birds they already have, but they cannot start fattening up any new chicks until the sanitization process has concluded.
Production is expected to resume in May or June, which officials say will give farmers plenty of time to produce lots of foie gras for the 2016 holiday season.