France has overtaken Ireland as the biggest exporter of cheese to the UK, according to the latest figures from Eurostat.

In 2007, France accounted for nearly a third of the 399,408 tonnes of cheese now imported into the UK.

Imports of French cheeses have been steadily rising to close the gap on Irish volumes since 2004 Last year, French cheese imports into the UK reached 112,085 tonnes, compared to Ireland's 89,042 tonnes.

Although Brie, Camembert and Emmental are increasingly becoming associated with everyday commodity products, they still managed to see sales rise in value terms.

Brie, still under heavy price competition, managed a rise of 1%, Camembert saw an increase of 2% and Emmental the biggest increase of 14% in sales.

"The range of French cheeses is the most diverse of any country and this has placed us in a particularly strong position, despite the difficult trading conditions caused by rising milk prices and cut-price promotions," said Sally Budd, senior account manager for Fine Cheeses from France.