The major multiples have wasted no time following Tesco's lead and raising retail milk prices by an average 1.7ppl.

They have upped the price of a one-pint and two-pint bottle by 2p to 35p and 66p respectively, with four pints up 4p to £1.15.

Farmers leaders have welcomed the move, but warned the so-called middle ground of doorstep milk, independent retailers and catering wholesalers must also raise milk prices.

NFU dairy board chairman Gwyn Jones said the rises would be watered down unless the middle ground also responded. Farmers supplying Dairy Crest and Dairy Farmers of Britain were particularly vulnerable because DC controls a large part of the doorstep market and DFB supplies The Co-operative Group.

Arla said it was too soon for it to say how much money would go back to farmers, but of all the companies it is best placed to pay back the most because the bulk of its liquid volume is sold through the majors.