24 July 1998

Sales picture bleak

AVERAGE tractor horsepower has levelled off and only compact tractors keep selling, says the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA).

That is the stark picture presented by the AEAs agricultural tractor registrations figures for the first six months of the year, which, at 4665 units, show a decline of 42.3% on the same period for 1997. In contrast, registrations of compacts (40hp or less), showed an increase of 8.4% to 528 units.

The decrease in sales was not confined to any particular power bracket. All agricultural power ranges dropped, although the fall was not as marked in the smaller groupings, up to 80hp. Average power of units sold in the period was 103hp – no significant change on last year.

In terms of regions, the figures show that arable farmers are keeping their cheque books only slightly less closed than livestock producers. The fall in the east, at 22%, was somewhat less than the north of England and Waless 46.7% and 38%, respectively, while Scotland showed the greatest reduction with -46.9%.

AEA economist Chris Evans cautiously estimates a year end sales figure of around 10,500 tractors. "We expect an improved third and fourth quarter, when arable farmers are traditionally looking to replace machinery," he says.

But much depends on grain price and quality. "There is a lot of relatively new machinery on farms, which does not have to be replaced," cautions Mr Evans.

"I think we might celebrate tonight," said Tony Soan, Shelbourne Reynolds sales and marketing manager, on the companys winning the Royal Welsh Shows Alban Davies Award.