Case combine harvester working in a field

British farmers spent £1.8bn on farm equipment in 2014, a drop of 5% on the previous year (£1.9bn), says the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA).

A total of 12,433 tractors over 50hp were registered last year, just 65 units down on the 12,498 sales in the previous year. However, the average power of each tractor continues to move upward and hit 155.1hp last year, so the actual total horsepower sold rose 2.4%.

See also: What farmers bought in 2012

Combine sales in the 2014 season (September 2013 to August 2014) reached 800 units, up by 4% on the previous season. However, the opening months of the current season (from September 2014 to now) have proved much weaker than a year earlier.

For that reason, the value of sales on a 2014 calendar year base is expected to be 5-10% lower than in 2013.

Self-propelled forage harvester (SPFH) sales hit 160 units in the seasonal year – a 7% increase on last year’s sales. Grass growth was strong and the fodder crop was sizeable, so demand for related equipment held up well, says the AEA. Meanwhile, the increase in acreage of maize grown for on-farm anaerobic digesters, now past the 60 mark, has also provided a stimulus for SPFH sales.

However, some machine types saw a small decline in unit deliveries in 2014. These mainly involved grassland equipment including mowers and fertiliser spreaders, although baler sales were slack. Sprayer units, however, showed a recovery from the poor volumes seen in 2013.

The first part of the year was stronger both for farming and for equipment suppliers. For the dairy sector, in particular, returns were initially very good but deteriorated sharply in the second part of the year. The year was one of almost universally falling commodity prices only partly offset by good crop yields and lower input prices.

Short-term conditions in farming don’t encourage great optimism, says the AEA, although grain prices have climbed somewhat from their post-harvest lows. But these are early days and, as always, the weather will have a strong influence.