Up to 43 countries have imposed bans on French poultry products just days after bird flu hit a commercial turkey farm in in southeast France, threatening significant damage to French exporters, French officials said.

France is Europe’s biggest producer and exporter of poultry and poultry products, with large markets in the Middle East and Asia. The US Department of Agriculture banned raw poultry products and live birds from France’s Ain region.

The French Federation of Poultry Industries warned the bans will reduce the country’s poultry meat exports between 60% and 65%. Total French poultry exports amounted to EUR500 million last year.

“Our producers are having to cut back their production and are seeing massively falling incomes,” said federation director Andre Lepeule.

French poultry farmers are asking Paris for financial backing to carry them through the crisis, Lepeule said.

Domestic poultry meat consumption has also plummeted by 20% in the past two weeks, Lepeule also said.

France is second only to Italy in being ravaged by falling domestic production. There, sales have fallen 70% according to national poultry producers. Across much of the rest of Europe, sales have largely recovered after steep slumps last autumn as consumers grow immune to images dead wild birds. National advertising campaigns telling consumers poultry is safe to eat also seem to have had an impact.

Paradoxically, sales of free-range poultry have remained largely stable as European consumers go local, opting for produce from local farms rather than imported frozen chicken parts. (DJCS via Comtex)