Foie gras: no shortage this winter in France but prices are likely to soar

Don’t worry, there will be lots of foie gras on the Christmas tables at the end of the year. Despite the avian flu which has decimated French farms, especially since 2021, and the rise in production costs caused by the war in Ukraine, producers of foie gras warn that there will be some in supermarkets, but in quantities. limited. “There will be 30% to 40% less foie gras on the shelves this year”, predicts Emmanuel Chardat, director for foie gras at Labeyrie, the leading retail brand cited by AFP. Above all, this drop in supply will be accompanied by a rise in prices, warns Marie-Pierre Pé, director general of the Interprofessional Committee for Foie Gras (Cifog). And for good reason.

First, the war in Ukraine, which has lasted for more than six months, is causing serious shortages in many sectors. As a result, with soaring grain and energy prices, foie gras producers will have no choice but to raise their prices.

The explosion of production costs

Concretely, the cost of raw materials for this commodity increased by 45.9% over one year between 2021 and 2022, while the average price increase between 2020 and 2021 was already 28.8%, according to Cifog. This rise in the price of raw materials thus leads to an overall increase in production costs: +28% since the first half of 2020. However, if the rise in foie gras prices will be seen in stores, it is first of all the lack of quantity that worries producers.

An epizootic on an unprecedented scale

While France is the leading producer and consumer of foie gras, with 30 million fattened ducks usually bred on the territory each year, only 21 million of them were bred in 2021 and this number is expected to decline further this year to finally reach 15 million, half of what is normal.

In question, two winters marked by avian flu, which decimated entire farms in France. Thus, from November 2021 to May 2022, France suffered an epizootic (disease which simultaneously strikes a large number of animals of the same species, or of different species) of large-scale avian flu. The virus first raged in the North, before spreading to the South-West region, an area which represents 40% of the national production of foie gras. Thus, over two years, 22.5 million poultry were slaughtered, including nearly 10 million ducks alone.

Breeders show imagination

This fourth crisis since 2015 logically worries breeders, and some of them are therefore proposing new initiatives to fight against an outbreak of cases this winter. The producers of ducks and geese in the south-west, in particular Landes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Gers, have indeed planned to empty their farms for a month in winter. “We are tired of living this”declared to AFP Chantal Brethes, president of Palso, the organization of the foie gras sector Protected Geographical Identification (IGP) and Label Rouge du Sud-Ouest, before adding that “in 68 municipalities where there are the highest densities of livestock, there will be no animals on the farms from December 15 to January 15”.

The initiative being limited in time, the Palso estimates that this represents approximately 500,000 ducks that will be missing from national production, i.e. the production of a “hundreds of breeders”. According to the Palso and Airvol, the regional poultry association of the southwest, the initiative will represent a total loss of “12 million euros” for breeders, a sum that these two groups are asking the State to allocate to the compensation of companies in the sector, compensation which would be added to the first already paid by the government.

Compensation of 800 million euros

On July 29, 2022, the professional players in the poultry sector were brought together around Marc Fesneau, Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, to record the actions taken against the flu, known as avian influenza. In a press release, the Ministry of Agriculture then specified that since the start of the crisis in 2021, “breeders and stakeholders in the sector have already been able to benefit, or will benefit in the weeks and months to come, from several compensation schemes for economic losses suffered in the context of the 2021-2022 episode”. For the sector as a whole, this compensation amounts to nearly 800 million euros and 300 million euros are estimated for the health component.

In addition, as of May 2022, 26 million euros have been granted to breeders in the south-west and north regions, impacted by the first wave of outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). This same system was to be implemented in early August for breeders affected by the second wave. “The State has shown that it is there to support with very significant resources the operators of the sectors impacted by the 2021-2022 epizootic” thus declared Marc Fesneau. However, even if the initiatives of the State and breeders are important and innovative, it is not yet clear that they will be sufficient to hope for a future return to normal in 2023.

Production of foie gras stopped in the South-West: what economic consequences?

(with agencies)