Dairy Crest Direct members supplying the Aspatria cheese factory in Cumbria, which was sold to co-op First Milk recently, have lost a potential new buyer for their milk after the collapse of talks with Dutch entrepreneur Ronald Akkerman.

Mr Akkerman had been in discussions with the 200 farmers, who produce about 260m litres of milk, to supply a new cheese factory his Partners in Cheese business had been planning to build in the area. But he said the group had been too slow in committing and momentum had been lost.

Leverage

“We weren’t prepared to be used as leverage in their discussions with other potential buyers.” Mr Akkerman said he was now considering a new site in west Wales.

Richard Weaver, chairman of DCD, said he was surprised at the move and said he had been waiting for further information from Mr Akkerman about his offer, which was due to be discussed at a members’ meeting on 13 December. A number of other options were still on the cards, he added.

Hoping

Despite initial resistance, First Milk is hoping that the farmers will choose to switch to the co-op when their existing Dairy Crest contacts run out next September.

A spokesman said: “We appreciate that they have a decision to make, and want to take time to consider their options at this stage.

“We will continue to keep all lines of communication open, to support their decision-making.”