Morrisons threatens legal action amid milk protests

By Alice Foster

- Last updated on GMT

Farmers plan to carry out more ‘Milk Trolley Challenge’ protests
Farmers plan to carry out more ‘Milk Trolley Challenge’ protests

Related tags: National farmers union, Protest, Morrisons

Morrisons has threatened to take legal action against farmers, as protests over low milk prices continue to escalate.

Despite a legal warning given to protesters in Scotland, farmers plan to carry out more ‘Milk Trolley Challenge’ protests by clearing supermarket shelves of milk then buying it up in bulk.

A letter from Morrisons to farmers in Ayrshire said their protest was causing “significant disruption”​ and the supermarket reserved the right to seek an injunction to prevent demonstrations.

Dairy firms’ 2015 price cuts

  • 2.43 pence per litre (ppl): First Milk (February 1)
  • 1.75ppl: Müller UK & Ireland (March 5)
  • 1.8ppl: Arla Foods (July 9)
  • 1.5ppl: Dairy Crest (March)
  • 0.8ppl: Arla Foods (September 1)
  • 1.4ppl: Dairy Crest (September 1)

‘Throwaway commodity’

It said: “If proceedings become necessary we may apply to make you and the other perpetrators personally liable for the financial consequences of these protests and the court proceedings that follow.”

Undeterred, Farmers for Action (FFA) has invited farming families to assemble at a livestock market in Somerset and a pub in Cheshire for protests “with a twist”​ last night (Thursday, August 6).

James Hole, the Somerset co-ordinator at FFA, said it was “absolutely disgusting”​ that Morrisons had threatened to take legal action against protesting farmers.

“Why are they allowed to devalue our product, turning it into a throwaway commodity?” ​Hole asked. “How are we going to survive if we continue to have price cuts like we are and not stand up?”

‘Inconvenience to customers’

Farmers for Action

How are we going to survive if we continue to have price cuts?”

  • James Hole, Somerset co-ordinator at Farmers for Action

Asked about the letter to farmers, a Morrisons spokeswoman said a customer had been injured after getting caught up in protests inside a store in Ayr.

“Recent protests have caused inconvenience to customers and disruption to our stores,” ​she said. “We understand the reasons behind the protests but we ask that they take place safely. 

“If the activity continues to endanger customers and colleagues, we will take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.”

Morrisons has agreed to refuse further cost price decreases from its suppliers which have been hit by falling farm gate milk prices.

But the National Farmers Union (NFU) argued that this pledge did not go far enough in “desperate times”​ for dairy farmers.

FFA chairman David Handley yesterday said Morrisons was no longer prepared to negotiate with the group while being targeted by farmers.

“I think a line has been drawn in the sand and am sure I speak on behalf of the majority of farmers when I say we are not going to be bullied by British retailers,” ​he said.

Meanwhile in France, farmers have recently blocked border roads, dumped manure, set fire to tyres and released live pigs in supermarkets in protest against cheap imports.

Handley said: “If farmers will not stand together, what we are going to see happen is smaller groups breaking away, not through greed but through desperation and therefore French tactics are going to take place, whether we like it or we don't.

“So here is my plea: British farmers stand up and unite, this is not a war, all we are asking for is fair play, fair price, fair trade and a living wage.”

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2 comments

Lead times

Posted by Bob Salmon,

It is not as simple as it sounds. To produce milk needs several years for the cows to grow. If farmers go out of milk and their cows go, then there will be a major shortage which cannot be filled for years.

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Supply & Demand

Posted by Paul Green,

It is really unfortunate that farmers are being forced to sell milk below production costs but the simple truth is that, like many other agricultural products, the price of milk is determined by supply and demand.
None of us have the privilege of operating within an enclosed bubble that is protected from the outside world and farmers are no exception.They already receive massive subsidies for sugar beet and now they want the government to do the same for milk.
It really comes down to the fact that, as a society we have to decide which is more important; a) A healthy, profitable UK farming industry or b) A truly free and open market place (without subsidies)where the consumer ultimately decides.
Perhaps UK dairy farmers have to start thinking 'outside of the box' and look for USP's that will encourage consumers to pay a premium for British milk!
Many years ago, at college, we were told that the ideal marketing model was one where the producer sells directly to the consumer, "such as pick your own", so what about turning the clock back and have milk tankers parked at farmers markets where consumers bring their own containers to fill?
"Fill Your Own":- No packaging cost, no wastage and no supermarkets!

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