An expanding world population with a growing level of affluence will stimulate demand for UK-produced food to levels not seen since the end of the World War II, according to one invited speaker at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute, an American non-profit policy think-tank based in Washington DC, was asked to consider the question: Should Britain still be farmed?

Mr Avery said if Britain were to cease producing food, it would, quite unfairly, merely be exporting the burden of food production to another country that was, potentially, less suitable to the task than the UK.

“Global food demand over the next 50 years will at least double, possibly treble,” said Mr Avery.

This would require the tripling of crop and livestock yields per acre if agriculture was to meet the needs of an expanding world population, he added.

According to Mr Avery’s projections, the world’s population will reach 8.5-9.5bn at some point between 2045 and 2055 before beginning a gradual decline as birth rates fall due to the improving fortunes of people in developing countries.

Add to this an increasing level of personal wealth and, using 1995 consumption levels, food consumption will be propelled to the equivalent of 18bn people by 2050.

For this reason, Mr Avery was critical of some European governments that had set targets to place large areas of land under organic production, thereby reducing output.

He concluded that Britain, with its temperate climate, fertile soils and skilled workforce, had a duty to continue farming.