Lack of action to improve rural connectivity is holding back food production and farming in the UK, reports the National Farmers’ Union.
The NFU’s new digital technology survey reveals that greater broadband and mobile connectivity is needed to meet the needs of modern food and agriculture businesses.
Respondents emphasized that rural areas should have access to the same level of digital services and infrastructure as urban areas, including better speed, coverage and reliability. This reinforces the NFU’s call for the government to prioritize digital connectivity in rural areas as part of its plan to upgrade the country.
NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “This survey makes for a very disappointing read. It shows that very little progress has been made over the past year to increase levels of broadband and mobile access in rural areas despite government promises to bring the country up to speed. This lack of digital connectivity is a huge drain on time and efficiency, as we work efficiently with one arm tied behind our back.
“Agriculture, like any other business, needs access to reliable broadband and mobile connections. They are essential to running modern food and agriculture businesses, impacting everything from access to data and use of technology to communicating with suppliers and keeping workers safe on the farm.
“Yet poor connectivity remains a real problem for farmers across the country as they work hard to increase efficiency and productivity in the face of rising costs. This puts agricultural businesses at a disadvantage, ultimately preventing us from increasing the production of sustainable and affordable British food for domestic and overseas markets.
“If the government is serious about leveling the country, it must step up its efforts now to deliver better digital services to rural areas and bridge the digital divide, which in turn will help rural communities thrive.”
The survey interviewed 846 NFU farmer and grower members between December 9, 2021 and March 13, 2022.
The survey showed that only 44% of respondents said their phone signal was sufficient for their business needs.
Eighty-three percent are unable to get a reliable mobile signal in all outdoor locations on the farm, while 38 percent found the broadband speeds sufficient for their business needs.
Thirty percent have download speeds below 2 Mbps and 49% have upload speeds below 10 Mbps. Only 24% have access to ultra-fast download speeds of over 24 Mbps.