Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
Poor rural connectivity is continuing to holding back UK farm businesses and food producers, says a study. Lack of connectivity hampers region’s farming businesses

• Inadequate mobile and broadband

• Better coverage and reliability needed

• Signal strength weak in many areas

Poor rural connectivity is continuing to holding back UK farm businesses and food producers, says a study.

The lack of action to improve rural connectivity is hampering food production, according to the NFU’s latest Digital Technology Survey. Better broadband and mobile connectivity is needed to meet the needs of modern food and farming businesses, it warns.

Respondents to the study said it was only fair that rural areas should have access to the same level of digital service and infrastructure as urban areas, This included faster speeds, better coverage and more reliability.

NFU vice president David Exwood said the survey reinforced the union’s call for the government to prioritise digital connectivity in the countryside as part of Boris Johnson’s commitment to “level up” all parts of the UK.

Drain on time

“This lack of digital connectivity puts a huge drain on time and efficiency as we’re effectively working with one arm tied behind our backs. Farming, like every other business, needs access to reliable broadband and mobile connections.”

Just 44% of respondents said their phone signal was sufficient for the needs of their business. And 83% said they were unable to get reliable mobile signal in all outdoor locations on farm.

“The survey makes for disappointing reading,” added Mr Exwood. It shows that little progress had been made over the past year to increase levels of broadband and mobile access in rural areas – despite government promises to speed things up.

“Better connectivity is vital to running modern day food and farming business, impacting everything from accessing data and utilising technology to communicating with suppliers and keeping workers safe on farm.”

‘Real issue’

Only 38% said their broadband speed was sufficient for the needs of their business. Almost one third had download speeds slower than 2Mbps. Access to 4G connectivity remained the same as last year at 82%.

The findings showed that mobile and broadband connectivity remained a real issue at a time when farmers were working hard to boost efficiency and productivity in the face of rising costs, said Mr Exwood.

And he warned: “It puts farm businesses at a disadvantage, ultimately preventing us from increasing production of sustainable, affordable British food for markets both at home and abroad.

“If the government is serious about levelling up the country, it needs to ramp up efforts now to deliver better digital services to rural areas and bridge the digital divide which will in turn support rural communities to thrive.”