ALL 144 staff at a Hampshire dairy face losing their jobs after its owner revealed plans for its closure.

Watson’s Dairy in Fareham is set to be shut after the coronavirus crisis hit demand and the firm lost an important retail customer, reported to be Sainsbury’s.

A statement from Medina Dairy said the plan was to close the Watson’s site at Hawksnest Farm and transfer production to other sites.

“The proposed closure reflects the extremely challenging market conditions being faced by all in the fresh liquid milk sector and in particular the loss for Watson’s of a major retail contract which will make the site unviable,” a statement said.

“In streamlining its processing activities, Medina believes it will be an important step forward in achieving its objective of being a more appropriately scaled, sustainable and fit for purpose business. One which will enable it to continue to deliver a high level of service to existing customers and provide a platform from which it can respond to future market opportunities.”

Staff were told on Friday about the proposals, the company said.

“The business will commence a statutory consultation period with the 144 Watson’s Dairy employees potentially impacted to discuss ways of avoiding the proposed closure; ways to reduce the number of redundancies that will potentially occur as a result; and what other support and assistance can be provided to those potentially affected,” the statement said.

“With regards to this, Medina will investigate other potential uses for the Watson’s site and also seek to find alternative employment opportunities for employees potentially impacted by the closure of the fresh milk operations.

“It is not envisaged that the proposed closure will have any negative impact on Medina’s existing customers nor its supplying dairy farmers whose milk will continue to be processed at other sites. Medina’s own label customer milk and Watsons branded milk will continue to be produced at other sites including its Buckley’s Dairy in West Yorkshire, Severnside in Gloucestershire and the Acton dairy in London operated by Freshways, Medina’s processing partner.”

Industry publication The Grocer said the major retail contract mentioned in the announcement was understood to refer to Sainsbury’s.

Medina was badly hit by the coronavirus lockdown, with demand from the hospitality and catering trades disappearing.