French foie gras - made in China to dodge import ban

Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:10am EDT
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By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS (Reuters) - A French firm plans to be fattening a million ducks in China by 2020 to supply a growing appetite there for foie gras.

The duck liver delicacy did not make it onto a list of French foods newly approved by Chinese import authorities this week, despite years of lobbying. Manufacturer Rougie has already taken a more direct route to market.

Rougie's parent Euralis already accounts for nearly a quarter of French national production, and began modest output in China in 2007. This month it began breeding work for a facility that will house 500,000 ducks initially and aim for 1 million by 2020, increasing by at least 50 percent existing Chinese production.

Foie gras' failed to make the list of meat products put forward this week for approval for sale in into China. French President Francois Hollande pushed for market access during a visit to China last year and a number of meat products won the right to request export licenses this week during the state visit to France of Chinese President Xi Xinping's visit.

It was a disappointment," said Rougie managing director Jean-Jacques Caspari. "We hoped things would move during this visit." Caspari is also in charge of economic affairs for foie gras makers group CIFOG.

"We had no choice. From the moment you cannot export and you want to get onto the Chinese market you must produce locally," Caspari said.

Foie gras is made from geese and duck livers which have been fattened, most often by force feeding. Sold whole or as a pate, it is considered a gourmet food in both Western and Asian cuisine, although the practice of force-feeding has been criticized as cruel by animal activists. California banned its manufacture and sale in 2012.

Euralis started Chinese production in 2007 with a 30-tonne foie gras plant. That was destroyed by a snow storm in 2012.   Continued...

A worker watches over a group of ducks at a duck farm for the production of foie gras, meaning 'fatty liver' in French, in the town of Yanqing, located 70 kilometres north-west of Beijing April 14, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray