* Low Spanish, Japan sales weigh on French foie gras exports
* Halal output growing to meet rising Middle East, EU demand
* Foie gras price to rise again in 2012 due to dearer grains
PARIS, March 27 (Reuters) – Exports of French foie gras fell 8 percent last year, mainly dampened by economic troubles in Spain, France’s main export market for the delicacy, producers group CIFOG said on Wednesday.
The tsunami in Japan, another major destination of French foie gras, also contributed to the fall in 2011 exports, which was mostly a drop in sales of raw foie gras.
A small rise in sales within France, pegged at 1.1 percent in volume in supermarkets, however, meant that overall sales of French foie gras in 2011 were about flat, CIFOG said.
Producers said the fastest growing export markets were Asia – Hong Kong imports of French foie gras surged more than 25 percent in volume last year – and the Middle-East, notably the Emirates and Qatar, attracted by the product’s luxury image.
Sales of halal foie gras, prepared according to Muslim rituals, were marginal, but producers said demand was increasing quickly, both on the export front and in Europe.
“The halal market has an enormous potential,” said Brieuc Fruchon, executive director of Rougie, part of the world’s largest foie gras maker Euralis.
The producer group forecast an increase in prices in 2012, in addition to the rise already imposed last year, due to higher grain prices, the main feed for geese and ducks. The rise will amount to 10 percent over the two years, it said.
“It is a rise in two steps, essential for the sector, and that should not impact demand. We are talking about a few cents for a festive product,” CIFOG President Xavier Gaudio said. ($1 = 0.7506 euros) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Jane Baird)