Booths has responded to claims by rival supermarkets over their sustainable dairy sourcing policies by reiterating its pledge to pay the highest market price to farmers of any major retailer.

Following recent announcements by Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s over the price it paid farmers for milk, the northern supermarket chain today (29 January) announced it paid 34.5 pence per litre of milk.

Citing its Fair Milk scheme - which was launched last May and ensures it always pays farmers more than rival supermarkets - Booths said it paid 1.4 pence per litre more than Waitrose, 2.49ppl more than Tesco, 2.78ppl more than Sainsbury’s and 0.18ppl higher than M&S. Booths sources all its own-label milk from four farms across the northwest of England, which is then processed by Müller Wiseman, and benchmarks its farmgate price against other retailers using the website.

“We are proud to pay farmers more for milk than any other supermarket,” said the supermarket’s chairman Edwin Booth.

“Paying the highest market price means family farms are able to keep going, invest in the future and spend more time and money looking after their herds to ensure they produce great quality milk,” he added.

Lancashire farmer and Booths supplier Claire Barber added that the Fair Milk scheme had been life-changing for her family, and had “secured our future”

“The benefits of an assured fair price for our milk are not only felt in the financial welfare of the farmer, but in our livestock,” she added. “The improvements we’ve been able to make on the farm and milking parlour have resulted in our cows producing an increased yield of three litres a day.”

Booths’ announcement came on the same day that processor First Milk announced it would hold its member milk price for March at 20.47ppl for its manufacturing pool and 20.1ppl for its liquid milk pool.

The farmer co-operative came under fire earlier this month for announcing it would be deferring farmer payments for two weeks to avert a cashflow crisis.

First Milk vice chairman Nigel Evans, said the processor was “determined and confident that the steps we have taken have created a stronger business as we head into this year’s spring peak”.

While he remained “very cautious” about the impact of cheese stocks yet to come onto the market and the consequences of higher milk volumes being produced around Europe this spring, he added that “right now, markets are relatively quiet and therefore we are able to hold our March milk prices.”