Britain's foot and mouth outbreak has proved something of a boon for Ireland's meat exporters, although leaders say there has been no effort to 'cash in'.

The main beneficiaries have been sheep farmers, with the absence of British exports leading to lamb shortages in the French market and pushing Paris wholesale prices to more than £4.08 per kg d/w last month. Cattle producers also experienced increased demand in compensation for the 1,300 tonnes of British beef and veal lost to the market in the past five weeks.

But while welcoming the extra business, the Irish industry is keen to stress that there was no attempt to cash in on Britain's difficulty. "There has been no opportunistic trading," said Michael Barry of Meat Industry Ireland, representing the processing sector.

"We have every sympathy with our British counterparts in their misfortune. We know the disease could have struck here, or any other country."