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Christmas turkey? Anyone?

The French are reluctant to place their orders for Christmas turkeys in the wake of fears of bird flu.

However, the dreaded disease has not stopped the British and the Germans from buying their usual Christmas turkeys // this year, say industry sources.

In France, bulk buyers such as restaurants and retailers are cautious in placing orders, say industry sources. The consumer confidence seems to have recovered, but the supermarkets are not stocking enough poultry.

France, home of Europe's largest poultry industry, registered a drop of up to 25 percent in retail sales after the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu arrived in Eastern Europe in October.

However, in Britain and Germany, the initial impact of H5N1 was muted and sales quickly returned to normal. At best, bird flu had made customers even more concerned with knowing exactly where their turkeys were coming from, providing a boost to local suppliers.

In Britain, around half of annual 22million turkey sales are sold in December. British industry sources said the trend towards using local suppliers had resulted in a rise in prices for traditional farm fresh turkeys this year.

At the height of the scare in October and November, there were fears that demand for turkeys would plummet, even though there have been no cases of bird flu in British poultry and no evidence that the disease can be passed to people through food.

The three main supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Sainsbury, Tesco, and unit ASDA had all reported that turkey sales were holding up well this year.

British supermarkets have been selling frozen turkeys so far this year. Supplies of fresh turkeys do not hit the supermarket shelves until about a week before Christmas.

The German poultry industry association expected no change in Christmas demand, noting that bird flu fears had made no significant impact on poultry sales in the country.

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