(Adds breakdown of aid, background, minister comment)
PARIS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - France announced a 290 million euro ($314 million) plan on Tuesday to help livestock farmers protesting against a slump in pork and milk prices, and poultry farmers facing a freeze in output due to the spread of bird flu.
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll announced that the government would also provide an additional 500 million euros in cash advances.
Livestock farmers have been blocking roads in several parts of Brittany, in northwestern France, with trailers, tractors and piles of mud for over a week in protest against low prices.
The financial aid comes in addition to an initial plan unveiled in September. That included tax rebates and support for investment, co-funded by the European Union and French regions, worth 3 billion euros over three years, Le Foll said.
“All these measures are there to help pass an extremely difficult moment but will not compensate all the losses linked to the fall in prices,” Le Foll told reporters.
Livestock farmers facing a slump in prices would receive 125 million euros of the new aid package, the minister said.
After a slight rebound to 1.40 euros ($1.52) per kilogram, a level producers consider as the minimum to cover production costs, the price of Breton pork fell to 1.09 euros/kg on Thursday, the latest available price.
The local branch of France’s largest union, FNSEA, and the young farmers’ union said 20 percent of pig farmers were close to bankruptcy and another 20 percent in great difficulty.
A meeting will be held on Thursday in Brittany between local authorities and representatives of the pork sector, the agriculture ministry said.
Le Foll said 130 million euros of the new aid would go to poultry farmers and hatcheries, who were asked to suspend production to contain a bird flu virus outbreak that has spread in the southwest of the country.
Duck farmers, whose output is mainly used for foie gras, were asked to halt new rearing starting from Jan. 18 and wait for farms, slaughterhouses and production equipment in the region to be cleaned and disinfected before resuming it.
The aim was to resume output by early May, Le Foll said.
France, the European Union’s largest agricultural producer, has recorded 69 outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu in the southwest of the country since late November, farm ministry data showed.
Last, Le Foll said France would spend 35 million euros to compensate farmers hit by a spread of the blue tongue disease. ($1 = 0.9229 euros) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by James Regan and Katharine Houreld)