A SUPERMARKET operator in East Lancashire has pledged to pay a ‘fair price’ for its milk to four suppliers across the North West.

Farmers leaders have given a guarded welcome to the announcement by Booths, amid hopes it could allow those involved to invest in new machinery and buildings.

The supermarket chain has pledged to pay 35.5p per litre to four selected farmers for its new own-label ‘fair milk’.

Booths has a main store in Clitheroe, a smaller branch in Longridge, and is currently building another supermarket off Gisburn Road, Barrowford.

The farms which will benefit include Wigglesworth Hall, near Long Preston, Manor House, in Garstang, Heaves, in Kendal, and Crewe’s Lower Lightwood Green.

Booths’ chairman Edwin Booth said: “As dairy farmers are under pressure, we guarantee to pay our farmers the highest market price for every pint of milk we sell.

“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.”

Bosses have said they will monitor the ‘farm gate’ price through an independent consultancy, and review the rate regularly.

National Farmers Union representatives have welcomed the deal, while seeking clarity over whether the terms will be writt- en into milk supply contracts to bring long-term benefits to the industry.

Mike Gorton, NFU North West dairy board chairman, said: “It is right that a supermarket wants to pay a fair price to its dairy farmer suppliers, and this will be great news for those lucky farmers involved with the Booths’ initiative.

“Receiving the best price in the marketplace will ensure those businesses can invest long- term in buildings, machinery and infrastructure, ultimately to improve efficiency, stand-ards of animal welfare and the wildlife habitats on their farms.

“While we don’t have exact information about how the output of these four farms compares to the total volume of milk sold as fresh liquid milk, or dairy products, through Booths stores, this deal repres-ents an important commitment by Booths to ensure a sustain-able milk price for farmers.”