14 November 1997

Agritechnica 97 reflects year of mixed fortunes

The biggest indoor

machinery show in Europe –

Agritechnica 97 –

presented visitors with one

of the largest displays of

agricultural equipment ever

amassed. David Cousins

and Andy Collings report

TWO years is a long time in the farm machinery industry. When Germanys Agritechnica Show was last held in Hanover in 1995, the industry was enjoying relatively good times. Sales throughout eastern Europe were still buoyant and demand on the home market was strong.

But the past year has seen a slow but steady change, says Bernd Scherer, head of LAV, Germanys Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association.

"It has been a year of mixed fortunes. Although exports of German equipment have remained strong, sales on the home market are variable," he says. Total sales for the year are predicted to be similar to 1996 at £2.5bn, due to a rise in exports. But home sales will decline by 8% to £890m compared with £900m in 1996.

As in the UK, combine sales have been particularly buoyant this year at 3304 compared with 3248 in 1996, with a forecast of 3000 units for next year.

Tractor sales also showed a 1% increase for the first nine months of 1997. Sales to farmers in western Germany rose by 6% or 800 units, while those in the eastern region fell by more than 700 compared with the same period last year, says Dr Scherer.

"By the end of December we expect total tractor sales to reach 27,000, compared with 27,300 for 1996. But business in the livestock machinery sector has not been so good, although round baler sales will show an increase of about 3%. Sales of other forage equipment have declined by 17%."

Dr Scherer and his colleagues in LAV are optimistic about next year. "Although structural change will continue in the German farm sector, profitability and demand for machinery should remain steady. We see no reason why grain prices should fall further; pig prices should remain firm and the fall in milk price should stabilise, albeit at a lower level than farmers would like," says Dr Scherer.

His views are shared by the managing director of Bernard Krone, Wilhelm Voss. Farmers must continue to invest if they are to compete on world markets. But the emphasis on what they buy will change, he says.

"At present farmers spend £430/ha on machinery. Of that £70/ha is spent on contractors. Within the next five years, farmers must reduce their machinery costs to £276/ha including £138/ha spent on contractors.

"The savings will be invested in new barn equipment and make up for any shortfall in commodity prices," said Mr Voss.

New combines at Agritechnica include the Arcus. Now in Case colours after the aqcuisition of MDW last month, tests have shown the Arcus to be capable of up to 40t/hour. Drive wheels are at the rear.