UK farmers are ideally placed to help with the global problem of food shortages and rising costs, according to DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn.

Speaking to delegates during a question and answer session at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, Mr Benn said more needed to be done to increase food production in the UK.

“The current indication is food prices will go down a bit, but not to where they were previously,” he said.

“Food production needs to rise by 50% by 2050 to meet the demands of the world population.

“We need to get agricultural production up and UK farmers are ideally placed to help with that.”

Mr Benn said food and farming was at the heart of the political debate in a way it had not been for the past decade, something the industry should take advantage of.

“People are more interested in food and where it comes from. It is a real opportunity for agriculture and I welcome supermarkets working to build links with farmers.”

However Mr Benn warned the industry it needed to be more positive if it was going to continue to develop.

“We have to encourage the next generation of farmers to come into the industry.

“If all we talk about is the difficulties then don’t be surprised if people go and work somewhere else.

“I want a strong, thriving agricultural industry and I believe we can build that.”