Tractor registrations for the first half of 2007 may be nearly 15% up on the same period last year, but if you want to get an accurate idea of the likely total for the whole of 2007, look at the sky.
For the weather over the next three key harvesting weeks will dictate how cheery or gloomy farmers will feel and how inclined they will be to invest in new machinery.
If we get three dry weeks, says Chris Evans from the Agricultural Engineers Association (the farm machinery trade body), registrations could hit the 15,000 or even 16,000 mark. If we get four weeks of on-off weather, let alone another wet month, the total could be sharply lower. The 2006 total was 13,566.
Tractor sales have always been an accurate barometer of farmers’ confidence. Look at the January-July 2007statistics and you don’t have to be a genius to guess what is happening.
Sales in the eastern region were 28% up on the previous year, those in Yorkshire and Lancashire up 24% and the south east up 23%. Scotland also put up a strong showing, with 21% more tractors sold than in the same period last year. Contrast that with Wales (down 13%), south west (up 1.3%) and the north (up 2.4%), all livestock strongholds grappling with wafer-thin margins.
Why was Wales down so sharply? Mr Evans thinks it is more a case of the region returning to normal after a period in which sales were above average thanks to early payment of single farm payments, better stock process and farm diversification money.
Tractors sales are up, with the year total predicted to be about 15,000-16,000. But that might change with a wet harvest and foot-and-mouth uncertainty.
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