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The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Tuesday it will increase measures to help small and midsize companies that could be affected by outbreaks of bird flu.

METI said it will activate safety-net insurance, allowing small companies in need of cash to receive guarantees from credit-guarantee associations nationwide between March 26 and June 30 for loans of up to 280 million yen, including loans of 80 million yen without collateral, from financial institutions.

Credit-guarantee associations will offer guarantees to such companies in addition to their guarantees for the same amount under regular credit lines.

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