14 September 2001

Exporters of used machinery face up to difficult times

By Simon Wragg

SECOND-HAND machinery exports are likely to come under renewed pressure as overseas buyers face more restrictions on the import of British tackle following new foot-and-mouth cases in the past fortnight.

According to some dealers, countries are closing borders to Brit-ish equipment as part of F&M precautions. Can-ada, which imports relatively small volumes compared with buyers such as Ireland, has virtually come to a standstill, says farmer/export-er Walter Gubbins, of Liskeard, Cornwall.

"Were now looking to export into the US, but either way pressure is certainly mounting to have kit cleaned and disinfected both while leaving here and entry into overseas ports. The slightest doubt over cleanliness, and tackle will be sent back."

Strict wash-down and dis-infection protocols have been in place for some time, but may be stepped up once more, says Paul Claydon, of Cheffins, which has a large sale yard in Cambs.

"The Irish are the fussiest. Its not surprising and they are right to insist on it. Vendors have been told in the strongest terms that any kit arriving here will be turned away if its not thoroughly clean."

France, Spain and Greece still remain keen European buyers. Controls for exports to continents such as Africa, where F&M is active, are lax by comparison, says Mr Claydon.

Although exporters have been active, thanks to sterlings slight slip against the k and the US$, some kit, including earlier Ford tractors and later John Deere models, has been kept in containers for several months before import documentation has been approved, say dealers.

"Thats a pity. With Canada effectively closed, the US would be our next port of call," says Mr Gubbins, who would hope to sell about 40 units/year across the Atlantic.

Some sales centres have been unable to resume trading. Harrison & Hetheringtons Richard Addison says Irish buyers are still in contact despite a freeze on machinery sales at Carlisle.

Others are trying to remain optimistic. When York-based Richard Tasker pencilled in a collective sale for earlier this week, he had his fingers crossed that disease precautions would be relaxed in the biosecurity zone between York and Malton.

Nobody is under-estimating the seriousness of the F&M crisis, but we have done everything possible to encourage exports by getting a DEFRA-approved disinfection unit operating at the sale, he adds.

One spin-off of cancelled sales in spring has seen demand build since early summer. "It could never recover the lost revenue, but domestic dealers are clearly short of better quality second-hand equipment for customers and are willing to pay to replenish stocks," says Mr Claydon. &#42

MACHINERYEXPORTS

&#8226 Tough F&M protocols.

&#8226 Some borders shut.

&#8226 Export market might get tougher.