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E-Business Boost For British Farmers

by 5m Editor
15 June 2007, at 4:35am

FARMING UK - Industry figures suggest that British farmers and livestock producers lag a long way behind those in other countries when it comes to being IT enabled. Only 20% of UK farmers use IT to manage their businesses*, with an even smaller number of beef producers using any form of management software.

To support British beef farmers, and to improve rural access to technology, Justin King, Sainsbury's Chief Executive, launched a new scheme today at the Oxford Farming Conference.

The scheme known as 'Farm Connections' will mean that key beef producers will be given computers, software and training so they can better operate and compete in the market, and be informed of industry matters and production costs.

Training will initially include teaching farmers the basics, i.e. computer installation and getting to know the hardware, along with software training including the use of internet and email. Once the beef producers have confidence to move on, they will be introduced to business improvement packages such as farm accounts, record keeping, the use of benchmarking, e-form filling, electronic data submission, and buying and selling on the internet.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference today, Justin King, chief executive, Sainsbury's, said: "Farm Connections will enable beef farmers and producers to exchange information with their supply chain partners and so help drive down costs and improve the competitiveness of British beef. I am convinced the project will make a positive difference to our producers including providing information relating to customer habits and trends and significantly help them in their businesses."

Sainsbury's partners in the project, which will provide the producers with computers, management software and local training and support, are The Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF), meat processor Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) and the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) for the West Midlands and the South West.

Martin Grantley Smith, General Manager of RMIF, added: "For the first time some beef producers will now be able to use technology to help them see beyond the farm gate and take a whole chain approach to their businesses. This initiative has been developed after several years work to identify ways to improve efficiency and competitiveness of red meat supply chains - it initially starts with 500 and will hopefully spread to many more."

Richard Cracknell, Managing Director, ABP, said: "Farm Connections will address every stage of IT literacy from how to switch on the PC and sending an email to exchanging market information with their buyers and filling in Defra forms."

The training and support will be delivered through local schemes sponsored by the RDAs. Mike Johns of South West of England commented: "Good IT skills underpin the development of small businesses and this offer is a great kick-start to the process."

The 'Farm Connections' programme will have wider benefits to farm businesses and rural communities, as well as providing an environment where farmers and producers can grow, adapt and develop their business competitiveness.

5m Editor