The UK food industry is “well placed” to take advantage of global opportunities for growth, despite the challenges currently encountered by the dairy sector, environment secretary Liz Truss has said.

In a speech today (7 January) to the annual Oxford Real Farming Conference, Truss cited the success of English and Welsh wine sales, in addition to British beer exports, the domestic strawberry crop, and an increase in food exports as evidence that the industry had the capacity “to lead the world”.

The “opportunities are clear”, she claimed, with the global population set to jump from 7.2 billion to 9.6 billion by 2050, and the global demand for food expected to grow by 60% over the same period.

Farming and food production was a “high-tech powerhouse” at the heart of the government’s long-term economic plan, and was vital “to our country’s security”, Truss said.

On the current problems present in the dairy sector, the Conservative MP for southwest Norfolk accepted there were challenges for producers, adding that the government wanted “to make sure the hard-working farmers in this industry are able to withstand as far as possible the immediate effects and also have the resilience to handle volatility in the longer term.”

This included ensuring farmers received the full support of the government’s £141m Countryside Productivity Scheme under the Rural development Programme, and potential help with new capital investment for farmers.

“We are also encouraging the use of longer contracts with buyers to give farmers added security.”

Truss added that she had also “made the case” for proper country of origin labelling to appear on milk and dairy products.

“It is wrong that when you go into a British supermarket you can look at a product on the shelves and think it’s British, when in fact the milk in it has been produced abroad,” she stated.

“What I want is for our dairy industry to be number one in the world, and industry that not only gets through this difficult period, but builds up its competitive strength to  meet future challenges and opportunities.”