Protests over the price of milk in supermarkets escalated last night as farmers blockaded Morrisons’ Somerset distribution centre.
- Farmers use tractors to blockade Morrisons warehouse in Somerset
- Protest comes following a week of ‘milk trolley challenges’ at UK supermarkets
- Morrisons vows to “continue talks” with National Farmers Union
Around 1,000 farmers and their families staged the mass action at the supermarket’s Bridgewater warehouse in Somerset. Campaigners travelled from as far afield as Cornwall and Wales to take part in the protest.
It is understood the grocer has begun handing out legal letters to protect its customers and staff after a shopper was allegedly injured in a ‘milk trolley challenge’ at one of its stores in Scotland. That involved farmers filling supermarket trolleys full of milk, purchasing them and handing them out to people for free outside the supermarket.
The letter to customers says Morrisons “reserve our right to commence court proceedings for an injunction to prevent any further action” that disrupts its business.
Farmers say they are being paid less than it costs to produce milk and are being forced out of business as the grocers slash prices to compete with discounters.
Following the latest tractor and human blockade last night, which lasted around three hours, Farmers For Action leader David Handley reportedly told protestors that Morrisons had agreed to fresh talks.
“We want to reiterate that we are not seeking any further reductions in milk prices and we will continue our talks with the NFU”
But the grocer suggested that negotiations with the National Farmers Union had always been on-going.
A Morrisons spokesman said: “We are disappointed with the disruption being caused to our stores and our customers. We recognise that the current issue is being caused by a reduction in global demand for milk that has led to an over-supply in the UK and very difficult conditions for many dairy farmers.
“We want to reiterate that we are not seeking any further reductions in milk prices and we will continue our talks with the NFU, in a constructive manner, to finalise our agreed plan of action.”
Morrisons is not the only supermarket to have been targeted by farmers protesting against milk prices.
Earlier this week, around a dozen farmers carried out a similar milk trolley challenge at a Tesco store in Belfast, while Asda’s Telford supermarket and Lidl were also targeted. Demonstrators either paid for the milk and handed them out outside the stores or dumped stocked trollies at the checkouts.
A Lidl spokeswoman said: “Naturally, we are concerned about the challenges faced by British farmers currently as a result of volatility in global market conditions.
“As such, we have pricing mechanisms in place which are monitored at regular intervals during the contract period to reflect market fluctuations and to ensure that our farmers continue to be paid a fair and accurate market price.
“Our cost prices are in no way linked to our retail prices and any reductions in retail prices are absorbed by Lidl.”