Royal Welsh Show 2014: Welsh may delay online-only payment switch

Poor broadband speeds in Wales may force the Welsh government to reconsider plans to move to an online-only payments system by 2016.

The target date was set earlier this year by the then Welsh farm minister, Alun Davies, who said he wanted all CAP payment application processes to be online in two years.

But during a CLA Cymru meeting at the Royal Welsh Show with Edwina Hart, one of three ministers who have taken over Mr Davies’ farming brief, it emerged that the government was reassessing its aims of getting rid of paper-based applications.

Speaking after the meeting, CLA Cymru’s policy director Karen Anthony, said the Welsh government had now recognised that not all farmers in Wales had sufficient broadband speeds.

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“We have been told by the minister that the timetable for moving to an online-only service is under review,’’ she said.

“CLA Cymru has always supported the use of online applications, but there has not been sufficient regard so far for the capability and capacity needed to allow farmers to use the system.’’

It is two years since the launch of Superfast Cymru, which promised 96% fibre-optic coverage across Wales by 2016.

CLA Cymru said many rural areas were still in desperate need of improved broadband and connectivity.

The organisation is also worried about a regression in the quality of mobile phone reception across parts of rural Wales due to “rationalisation’’ from phone mast providers.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The Welsh government will take into consideration the outcome of the review being completed to identify locations not covered by either commercial or Superfast Cymru rollouts, when planning the rollout of online services for farmers.”