Dairy farmers in North Wales and Cheshire have been desperately looking for new milk buyers after the collapse of Tomlinsons Dairies.
The plant at Minera near Wrexham buys 90 million litres of milk from 45 producers within a 15 mile radius.
Producers received texts and messages from agents at the weekend advising them to contact other dairies, including County Milk, to arrange alternative milk collections.
Calls by Farmers Guardian to Tomlinson’s Dairies were unanswered.
“We are extremely concerned for our members who are affected and who have contacted us,” said Farmers’ Union of Wales vice-president Eifion Huws.
“We had no prior warning and are extremely disappointed that farmers are left in a predicament where they have no one to collect their milk.”
Mr Huws added that the closure would be another blow to dairy farmers as the industry makes great efforts to boost the unique brand of high-quality Welsh milk.
The dairy was established in 1983 by farmers Philip and John Tomlinson and went from supplying a local milk round to shops, caterers, hospitals and dairy processors.
In 2017 the company secured £14.5 million in finance from HSBC along with £7 million from the Welsh Government and Finance Wales to expand cold storage. The plant employs 150 staff and uses the Love Milk brand.
About 40 Tomlinsons farmer suppliers were on aligned contacts with Sainsbury’s as part of the retailer’s Dairy Development Group.
A further 30-35 were on non-aligned contracts.
One farmer affected by the collapse of Tomlinsons Dairies, Mark Nutsford, said his business was now on a ‘knife edge’.
Mr Nutsford, who milks 150 pedigree Holsteins at Middlewich, Cheshire, and is one of those on an aligned contract with Sainsbury’s, said his business may not survive after losing six weeks’ worth of milk payments.
He said: “We have invested our whole lives into our cows and this business, but now we may need to think about how we can restructure going forward.”
Dairy analyst Chris Walkland said he believed Sainsbury’s was now considering whether to step in and pay Tomlinsons’ 40 aligned suppliers what they are owed.
However, some farmers speaking to FG said that after a conference call with the supermarket, they did not think it would take responsibility.
It is believed Sainsbury’s direct suppliers have switched to Muller, with non-aligned suppliers moving to Yew Tree, Meadow Foods, County Milk and South Caernarfon Creameries.
Tomlinsons has not yet filed its year-end accounts, which were due on September 20.
An Arla spokesperson said: “Tomlinsons has been an important supply partner to Arla for a number of years. In light of the very important role they have played in the production of Welsh dairy products we have provided significant provision to Tomlinsons through favourable cash terms and operational support.
"Arla is working with the administrators and we have the capacity in our supply chain to continue to supply milk to our customers. There is no change to the contracts of Arla’s Welsh farmer owners. We are also in discussions with retail customers affected to see whether we can provide additional support.”
Meanwhile, Suffolk-based milk and yoghurt processor Marybelle is closing with the loss of 19 jobs, while a £50,00 crowd-funding scheme has been launched by 29 farmers in Kintyre, Scotland to take over the Campbeltown cheese creamery.