With more than 20 countries imposing restrictions on the import of French poultry following the spread of bird flu, farmers in Europe’s largest poultry producer have condemned the hysteria surrounding avian influenza.

According to the Financial Times, the deputy head of the French poultry farmers’ union, Confederation Francaise Avicole (CFA), has described the import bans as “completely unjustified”. He enunciated a belief common among French poultry producers that trade restrictions were “a purely commercial decision” as, he said, eating French poultry does no present a health risk.  The CFA also raised fears that Saudi Arabia, who accepts 40% of the nation’s poultry exports, may introduce a temporary ban on French poultry.

Meanwhile, speaking at France’s annual agricultural fair, trade minister Christine Lagarde said Morocco, Egypt, Thailand and South Korea, countries who combines account for 5% of French poultry exports, had followed Japan and Hong Kong in introducing bans on French poultry. “We regret the moves,” she said. “It’s an emotional response of national protection.”

Franz-Josef Feiter, secretary general of Copa-Cogeca, the European farmers’ lobby, said that the steps taken in Europe to prevent the spread of bird flu meant that import bans were unjust. However, he noted, there appears to be no legal recourse through the World Trade Organisation.