French poultry back in the UAE

French poultry producers are optimistic about rebuilding business in the region.

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By  Roger Field Published  July 3, 2006

The UAE authorities have lifted a ban on the import of French poultry, which took effect as a precautionary measure in February after a case of bird flu was reported on a turkey farm in eastern France. French poultry is also expected to return to Oman and Kuwait early in July, and to Yemen within the next month, Eric Santier, head of Sopexa, the French food marketing board, confirmed to Retail News Middle East. The lift of the ban will have a significant effect on the French poultry industry, for which the Middle East is a key market. The import ban in UAE, Yemen, Oman and Kuwait was a big issue for the French exporters, who had to reduce their production from last March. Indeed, the Middle East is the main foreign market for frozen chicken from France. While KSA didn’t ban French poultry, French exporters faced a drop of their volumes in the market as consumption shrank. The ban was particularly frustrating for French producers because poultry from most parts of France was safe and should have been allowed into the country, according to Santier. “The French government, with the support of the EC and the OIE determined at-risk areas, and it was forbidden to sell any products from these regions,” he said. “But, poultry from the other parts of France was still allowed and safe for consumption.” But while countries including the USA recognised this system, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Yemen did not, and banned poultry from all areas of France. “They [UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen authorities] didn’t – or wouldn’t – understand this system, and chose to ban all produce,” Santier said. “The French Embassy tried to explain this system to the UAE government in Oman, but it either wasn’t clear enough, or they couldn’t understand the concept, so they maintained the ban on all French production.” Despite this, Santier is convinced that the French producers will be able to regain their business in the region quickly, partly because it is an established trading partner. “In the Middle East, France has been a reliable supplier of frozen chicken for more than 40 years. The consumers will resume buying French poultry products shortly.” In 2005, the total consumption of frozen poultry in the Middle East was 1.4 million tonnes and the market share of French poultry was around 25%, or 200,000 tonnes.

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