The grocery industry was holding its breath following last week's outbreak of foot and mouth disease at a farm in Surrey, which could cost up to £180m in lost exports.

The outbreak, in Pirbright near Guildford, brought with it the spectre of the 2001 outbreak which devasted the UK farming industry.

Conservative estimates suggest that even if the disease is contained and eradicated swifly the cost of worldwide import bans will be up to £180m. The EU, US and other counties will today place such bans on UK meat, dairy and livestock products. The bans will last for at least three months.

It is believed that should the disease spread beyond the current containment zone, there would be a greater impact on the supply and price of meat than in 2001. Then the supermarkets relied on cheap imports which are no longer available to meet demand.

Although the cause of the outbreak is still uncertain, investigations are centered on an animal research site located three miles from the farm which houses the government's Institute for Animal Health and a private pharmaceutical company called Merial.

Three kilometre protection zones and a wider 10km surveillance zone have been set up around the affected sites.