Three dairy farmers a day are forced out of business because of 'price squeezes' by the supermarkets, according to the National Farmers' Union.

Speaking at the NFU's annual conference held in Birmingham yesterday, Peter Kendall, president of the NFU, urged supermarkets to tackle the problems in the supply chain.

“It is an encouraging sign that supermarkets are now falling over each other to paint themselves as the 'greenest' or 'most responsible' - but do they really mean it?” he said.

“Are businesses dedicated to competitive price-cutting really committed to being fair to their suppliers? Or is it all about PR - about looking good because of customer expectation while still screwing down the price to the point where three dairy farmers are going out of business every day?”

“For many farmers and growers today's prices are not sustainable, so if supermarkets want to be able to offer their customers the security and quality that comes with a UK supply base they need to understand the farming and growing businesses that comprise that supply base must be profitable, and shoulder a much greater burden of responsibility and enter in to supply arrangements where efficient producers can prosper,” he added.

Meanwhile, also speaking at the conference, Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury's, urged farmers to come forward with evidence of unfair practices by the supermarkets.

“I'm happy for people to come forward and give evidence,” he said. “Either you have to believe that either there is nothing to complain about or there is some malign force. We have to reach a conclusion.”