22 December 2000

Dutch find trading in qs oils the markets wheels

Despite following two other

big agricultural European

shows in about as many weeks,

Amsterdams RAI event

produced a useful crop of new

machinery. Andy Collings

and Stephen Howe report

TRADING in ks is changing the way Hollands farm machinery industry operates.

Since the country joined the k more than four years ago, the machinery market has become more transparent and some prices have fallen, explains Gerrit Weijers, director of the industrys Agrotechniek Federation.

"Being part of the EMS has encouraged farmers to compare prices and shop around for machinery in Europe. It is also helping our dealers to sell second-hand equipment more effectively in other EU countries," he says.

The weak k is also helping Dutch manufacturers to export to countries outside the EU, and trading within it has proved to be more stable. The past year is likely to see farm machinery sales down only slightly on 1999 which followed a profitable year for the countrys farmers. "Tractor sales will finish up somewhere between 3900 and last years figure of 4500," predicts Mr Weijers.

A great deal depends on potato prices which have begun to pick up from a low of about £17/t to more than £48/t, after wet conditions in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Meanwhile, Hollands livestock producers have fared better over the past 11 months. Milk prices are higher and more stable than last year and pig producers are recovering slowly from the disastrous outbreak of swine fever and low prices experienced over the past two years.

But Mr Weijers has mixed feelings about the future. "Although there are fewer farmers each year and our industry will sell fewer units, farmers continue to invest in bigger, more sophisticated equipment."

His views were echoed by one of the countrys leading manufacturers, Roland Peeters. Although there will be fewer farmers, those that remain will be hi-tech, he says. Nevertheless, he was concerned about the speed at which farmers were leaving the land in some parts of Holland.

"A recent survey covering farms in the Noord Brabant area, close to the Belgium border, suggests there will be 50% fewer farmers in five years time.

"The main reason is the economies of scale of these small mixed farming units, increasing regulation and sons who are not eager to take over their fathers struggling businesses," says Mr Peeters. Sounds familiar? &#42

Gerrit Weijers, director of the Agrotechniek federation: "Joining the k has made the machinery market more transparent."