BUCHAREST, Oct 14 (AFP): Poultry sales have plummeted in Turkey, Romania and elsewhere in Europe since the news that the deadly Asian bird flu had spread to the frontiers of the continent and possibly beyond.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to calm fears, breaking his dusk to dawn Ramadan fast Thursday with a forkful of chicken salad after the confirmation that the feared H5N1 virus had been detected in his country.
"Do you know what this is?" he asked reporters. "I hope you will change your headlines from now on," he joked.
But producers said sales were sliding.
"Poultry consumption has dropped 50 per cent in the past few days because of a crisis of irrational panic," said Yuce Canoler, secretary general of Turkey's Union of White Meat Industries.
"We have told people there is absolutely no risk in eating cooked produce but they do not want to hear."
The Turkish poultry industry generates an estimated 2.5 billion euros (three billion dollars) in sales for two million growers, transport workers and employees in other industries. The vast majority is for the home market.
In Romania, producers said chicken sales had dropped 50 per cent.
Test results to determine whether a bird flu outbreak in Romania is also the H5N1 strain -- which has killed more than 60 people in Asia and is feared could be a precursor of a human pandemic -- were delayed by a day to Saturday.