AN EAST Lancashire cheese factory will close within three months unless a ban on animal products is lifted by European countries, it was predicted today.

Managers at the 67-year-old Singleton's Dairy in Longridge, say a ban slapped on the export of British animal products, including cheese, by European Union bureaucrats following the outbreak of foot and mouth is having a massive effect on trade. Some 60 per cent of the cheese produced by the Preston Road, Longridge, factory is sold overseas, meaning the week-old ban is already having a massive effect on their trade. The ban on overseas sales came on the day the firm received a Queen's Award for Export from Buckingham Palace. Now 80 jobs at the site are at risk if the ban, which has left them with more than 100 tonnes of cheese waiting to be delivered, isn't lifted quickly.

Company director bill Riding hopes a health certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food could allow them to begin exports again before the end of this week -- even though foreign countries could still keep the ban in place.

Mr Riding said: "This crisis is going to cripple us, we'll be out of business in about three months if this keeps up like it is. I'm absolutely devastated, but it's in the hands of the politicians now.

"Our cheese is pasteurised -- a process that kills the disease. We manufacture 2,500 tonnes every year worth £7.5m.

"They shouldn't have banned cheese. It was a knee jerk reaction on their part but some of my cheese was made months before the outbreak of the disease yet I'm not allowed to sell it abroad."

The export ban is due to be reviewed on Thursday. Longridge as a town typifies the rural communities being affected by foot and mouth, even though no cases have actually been reported there. The town's Alston dairy has placed disinfectant and straw atentrances to its site, while the nearby Pampered Pork shop in Alston Lane has closed so the family which run it can concentrate on looking after their 200-head of farm animals.

The abbatoir in Derby Road has also closed while local farmers have been left without animals they were due to collect after a ban was imposed on the transportation of livestock.