Waitrose managing director Mark Price has blasted rival supermarkets for their “unsustainable pricing policies” and called for fair trade for British farmers.

Price used this week’s NFU conference to champion Waitrose’s relationship with its supply base, and to launch a thinly veiled attack on rival Asda.

“I hope our suppliers know what to expect from us at a time when other businesses are making over-aggressive pricing demands to prop up unsustainable pricing policies,” he said. “Whoever heard of a 2p sausage?”

Although Waitrose did not ignore market fluctuations, it believed in paying a fair price to suppliers even in the tough economic climate, he said. Waitrose also had an interest in suppliers’ long-term economic viability, he added. “What it’s not about is screwing the supply chain to get the lowest cost.”

Price denounced supermarkets that “believe the model for success is to drive down the cost of goods and drive down the cost of operations.”

Research showed that Waitrose’s investment in its British dairy farms amounted to double the industry average, he said.

He also referred to the Waitrose Foundation, which was set up to improve the lives of fruit growers and workers in South Africa. “What’s stopping us trying something like that in the UK - why can’t we have our own version of fair trade for British farmers?” he asked.

His comments come a week after The Grocer revealed suppliers were claiming Waitrose was being “firmer than usual” and had been demanding price reductions.