Bird flu plea from Hungary's foie gras producers

The price of goose foie gras, a signature staple of Hungarian cuisine and favourite delicacy of tourists flocking to Budapest, has surged since an outbreak of bird flu forced farmers to cull more than three million birds, mostly geese and ducks.

The locals eat it cold with onions.

But in Budapest foie gras is a key ingredient in high class restaurants popular with tourists.

The pate is made from geese and duck livers.

But thanks to a bird flu outbreak prices in recent months have doubled.

Mid week a kilo in the market cost almost $45 (S$64.18).

Mr Csaba Szabo, manager of Macesz Huszar restaurant, said: "We've been finding it hard to get supplies since December as we use goose liver, duck breast and goose leg in large quantities. During the holidays it was so expensive we almost couldn't afford it."

Three million birds have been culled in recent months.

And this week Hungary asked for financial help from the European Union.

It's one of the world's leading foie gras producers behind France.

But this year output could halve.

Head of the Poultry Product Board Ms Attila Csorbai said: "The loss of stock will severely affect the Hungarian water poultry results in 2017.

Even if the virus disappears immediately it would take 4-5 months to rebuild stock levels."

Bird flu outbreaks occur every 8 - 10 years.

And foie gras producers want a permanent support mechanism.

She added: "If we are to preserve an important part of European cultural and gastronomical heritage the EU Commission must build it into the

European damage compensation mechanisms - it is clear that this virus is not disappearing."

Hungary's producers fear jobs losses without support.

And say the total economic fallout could reach almost $35 million (S$49.92 million).