8 October 1999

Small surge in September for tractor sales

By Stephen Howe

UK tractor registrations took a welcome boost in Sept following a small decline in August, according to the AEA.

Sales of tractors above 40hp rose by 55% compared with the same month last year. But the underlying trend, indicating sales for the first nine months of the year running at 13.5% higher than last year, is a more realistic picture of the industrys fortunes, explains AEA economist Chris Evans.

"In Sept 1998 sales fell following the traditional August peak when the registration letter changed. This year, with two changes in registration letter, we have seen two small surges in tractor sales, one in March, the other in Sept and no peak in August," says Mr Evans.

Despite the uncertain farming prospects and poor profitability in all sectors of UK agriculture, tractor sales could reach 11,000 units by the end of Dec, a 10% uplift on last year, he says.

"Tractor suppliers remain cautious, but it is difficult to believe the final quarter of this year could be lower than that experienced in 1998 which was the worst on record," explains Mr Evans.

Meanwhile, combine sales for the 1998/99 season fell by nearly 40% to reach little more than 700 units. The best guess for the coming season is 600, predicts Mr Evans.

"Most of the UKs farming problems are down to the strength of the £.

"Although that makes some imported machines very competitive, the simple fact is that a strong £ puts a severe damper on farm profitability and consequent demand for farm machinery."