Morrisons dairy letter

Morrisons has threatened legal action against protesting dairy farmers at a store in Scotland, claiming the protests were causing “significant disruption” to business.

In a letter handed to protestors at its Ayr store this week, Morrisons warned it was gathering evidence on the identities of the “perpetrators of these activities” and would work with the police to “ensure we can carry out our lawful business”.

The supermarket also said it reserved the right to “commence court proceedings for an injunction to prevent further action which disrupts the activities of this or any other Morrisons property” and, if necessary, would apply to make protestors “personally liable for the financial consequences of these protests”.

It is understood the letter has been handed to protestors at several other Morrisons stores.

Dairy farmers have targeted Morrisons stores and other supermarkets with a wave of protests over the past week in response to supermarket price wars on fresh milk, which they claim are “devaluing” the product in the eyes of consumers. Action included a co-ordinated emptying of milk aisles across the country dubbed the ‘Milk Trolley Challenge’. 

A spokesman for Morrisons said the protests had caused disruption and inconvenienced customers. “One customer has already been injured after being caught up in protestor activity,” he said. ”We understand the reasons behind the protests but we insist they take place safely. If the activity continues to endanger customers and colleagues, we will take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.”

Morrisons this week also defended its position on the procurement of milk. Group commercial director Darren Blackhurst said the retailer had decided not to accept “any further cost price decreases from our suppliers driven by the falling farmgate milk price”.

But Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said the letter handed out to farmers meant “a line has been drawn in the sand by Morrisons”. He warned: “If the supermarkets want to see European-style protest tactics from us, that’s fine. We won’t be bullied, and the gloves are off now.”

The general public was behind farmers, he added, “and they say they will pay more for their milk”.

Other retailers

Protestors have also targeted Tesco, among others, over the past week to protest against the high retail price of British lamb - which, they say, is at odds with plummeting farmgate prices and make UK lamb less competitive against New Zealand imports. Others have pledged to withhold lamb from market as part of #NoLambWeek and taken to Twitter to complain over what they have described as “misleading” country-of-origin labelling on imported meat products.

Police have been called to several retailers this week in response to the protests.

A British Retail Consortium spokeswoman insisted it was “wrong to blame retailers” for the “current frustration of farmers” about milk prices. She pointed out supermarkets were “giving great support to dairy farmers through collaboration with groups of farmers to get the best milk price”, although she conceded this only helped a proportion of farmers, as much of the UK’s dairy output was “subject to the global market”.

The spokeswoman also stressed supermarkets were supporting farmers through “extensive promotion of British lamb” and pointed out that farm incomes were affected by much more than supermarkets”.