By Debbie James

Welsh farmers are struggling to run their businesses properly because of weak internet speeds and poor mobile phone signals.

According to a recent industry survey, four in ten farmers don’t have the fast and reliable broadband they need to run their businesses.

Not only is this curtailing everyday activities but for some it is preventing business growth.

The findings of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) survey suggests that farmers are getting left behind as the “two-tier’’ system of digital connectivity widens.

The NFU is putting pressure on the government and the telecommunications industry to tackle rural connectivity as a priority.

“It is completely unacceptable that in this digital age we have a two-tier system of haves and have nots – particularly at a time when communication has become even more important,’’ said deputy president Stuart Roberts.

He described the current pace of change as “just too slow’’.

“With the introduction of 5G and fibre broadband technology in cities, the gap between urban and rural areas continues to widen,’’ said Mr Roberts.

One region with poor connectivity is Powys, Wales’ biggest rural county, where the Hammond family run a large-scale livestock and poultry business.

Stuart Hammond said it can cause problems with the alarm monitoring systems in the poultry enterprise – at times the central control centre overseeing the alarms is unable to make contact when the systems are triggered.

Mr Hammond said with more meetings going online, slow broadband speeds were an issue too. “The connection keeps dropping out which is not helpful at all.’’

He said rural counties like Powys had as much right to good connectivity as urban areas.

“There are big businesses in the countryside, there are a lot of big farms that are contributing to the economy and deserve equal treatment to towns and cities.’’

Some steps are being taken to redress the balance with O2, Three and Vodafone set to invest in 222 new mobile masts to boost 4G rural coverage and eliminate partial ‘not spots’.

The construction is set to begin soon and the rollout scheduled to be completed by 2024.