12 April 1999
Ulster farmers to sue Express Dairies?

By Vicky Houchin

Monday, 12 April, 1999

A GROUP of Ulster dairy farmers is considering legal action after Express Dairies effectively terminated their contracts to supply milk with just three weeks notice.

The 35 producers claim that Express breached business terms guaranteeing them three years written notice if their contracts were to be terminated.

But the company invited the producers to a public meeting last month where they were effectively told their milk would no longer be required as of 1 April.

The producers claim that Express implied any farmer who wanted to continue supplying milk to the company would be paid a loss-making 15ppl.

The producers say they were also threatened with increased transport costs which would have made it uneconomic for them to continue selling their milk to Express.

“We just couldnt justify the transport re-investment that was needed on the tankers – and we helped all the producers find new homes for their milk,” said a spokeswoman for Express Diaries.

Joe McDonald of the Ulster Farmers Union said today that the farmers involved had now passed all evidence concerning the case to the unions lawyers for examination.

“We must look at how we can prevent this form happening again,” he told FWi.

Finding new contracts for the producers has left a huge amount of uncertainty among farming industry, added Mr McDonald.

“What Express Dairies did leaves a big question over the confidence that producers have with the processors,” he said.

If the cases does reach the courts, it will be the first of its kind since the deregulation of the Milk Marketing Board opened up the market for milk over four years ago.

Express Dairies will now buy its milk from United Dairy Farmers – the Irish equivalent of Milk Marque.

Most farmers are said to have moved their contracts to another company, Glanbia, at similar prices, although they have not been compensated by Express.