The French government has announced a EUR6m (US$7.24m) package of new aid for poultry farmers affected by a sharp fall in sales triggered by worries over bird flu.

According to the newswire Dow Jones, Dominique Bussereau, France’s agriculture minister, said the majority of the aid would be allocated directly to assist farmers and other parties in the poultry industry. But EUR1m is being earmarked for consumer education regarding the safety of properly cooked poultry.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, sales of poultry in France fell by 20% in the first two weeks of 2006 against the same period in 2004.

Last week, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin ordered fowl to be confined in 58 regions, which represents a doubling of the area where such preventive measures have been deemed necessary because of the possibility of migratory birds infecting farm poultry with the virus.