Watson’s Dairies had obtained an injunction to prevent farmers selling milk elsewhere
Watson’s Dairies has had an injunction against milk production cooperative Meadow Milk dismissed by the high court after it sought to prevent farmers selling milk elsewhere after handing in their notice.
The 16 dairy farmers’ notice expired on September 30 and the dairy obtained an injunction to stop the farmers, who had signed new contracts, selling milk elsewhere.
However, on the return to court on October 6 the Judge refused to allow it to continue.
Watson’s Dairies were also contesting the validity of the notices. The farmers handed them in when the notified milk price went below a safety net basket of prices, serving three months’ notice ‘in accordance with the terms of their contracts’.
Esther Woolford, dispute resolution partner at Clarke Willmott LLP, representing the group said they were delighted with the result.
"The applicant’s case for the injunction was that its long-term financial viability depended on the supply of milk from our clients. The judge did not accept this argument pointing to the fact that the applicant could obtain the milk that it needs from elsewhere in the market.”
She added the judge noted a deal had been reached between two Meadow Milk members who had also given notice on better terms and tying the other farmers to a more disadvantageous relationship would ‘subvert the free market’.
“The on-going litigation between Watson’s Dairies and our clients is a reflection of the unfairness that prevails in the dairy industry today.
“Dairy farmers are expected to bear the risk of contracts that are weighted heavily in favour of the milk processors who unilaterally introduce revised contract terms, pricing mechanisms and price cuts without negotiation.”
She added they would now focus on defending their clients’ case in the continuing litigation.
The farmers had received financial assistance from the NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme in defending their position
NFU Chief Dairy Advisor James Osman also gave witness evidence explaining the operation of the dairy industry and the NFU’s concerns as to fairness in contracts, particularly in relation to pricing and the length of notice periods.”
Mr Proctor of Meadow Milk Limited said: “We would like to thank our legal team, the NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme for their support and input, without which we could not have successfully achieved this fantastic outcome in pursuing these injunctive proceedings for the benefit of both Meadow Milk Limited and the many other dairy farmers.”