French Trade Minister Christine Lagarde has said that Japan may ease the ban on French poultry products introduced following the discovery of H5N1 avian influenza on a turkey farm in the department of Ain. He also urged other countries to relax restrictions.

Speaking to the Associated Press yesterday (2 March), shortly after Canada became the 44th country to introduce import restrictions, Legarde said: “We heard just recently that Japan might reconsider and might reduce the scope of the ban, which would be good news.”

The minister said that the measures being introduced to limit the import of French poultry had reduced exports to non-European Union countries by 35%, or approximately US$170m annually.

Yesterday (2 March), France reported 11 new cases of H5N1 found in wild birds in the Ain region, raising the total number of cases found in wild birds to 29. The government said it was expanding the protection zone from 70 to 300 towns in the area.

While some countries, such as Canada and the US, have imposed partial bans on French poultry products, many, including Japan, have blocked all French poultry and derived products. Lagarde said any import restrictions should be limited.

“What we’re trying to explain to those countries is that it should be proportionate with the actual risk and where it has taken place,” she said.