By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

More than 100 beef producers travelled from all corners of Wales to the market town of Welshpool on Tuesday (13 September) to queue for free laptop computers and software.

They were some of the 159 Welsh farmers who have signed up for the Farming Connections scheme being offered to suppliers by Sainsbury’s and the company’s key processor Anglo Beef Producers (ABP).

Launched by Justin King, Sainsbury’s chief executive, at the Oxford Farming Conference in January, the initiative aims to enable producers to improve the efficiency of their systems, and to exchange information with other links in the supply chain.

Participants have to agree to some level of IT training in return for a package made up of laptop and case, management software and a printer with a total retail value of around £1000. The computers are being supplied by Farmplan Computer Systems.

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ABP spokeswoman Rebecca Timmis said the company was delighted with the enthusiastic response of Welsh producers, who made up 44% of the total signed up nationally.

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Training programmes would be provided through the Welsh Assembly’s Managing Farms with IT initiative, and tailored to suit individuals’ levels of computer literacy. About half of those taking part had no previous computing or internet experience.

Prys Morgan, industry development manager at Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) said the scheme would open many new doors for producers by providing access to a wealth of technical best practice information and market intelligence.

“By accessing our site they will be able to keep up to date with the latest husbandry developments and benchmark their beef enterprises,” Mr Morgan claimed.

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While some of those collecting the packages took them straight to their cars, others could not wait to plug in and boot up their laptops, even ignoring the buffet lunch provided.