11 April 1997

Tractor sales falter

A DROP of 17.1% in registrations of agricultural tractors for the first quarter of this year does not point to a major drop in overall sales of farm equipment, insists the Agricultural Engineers Association.

Sales of combine harvesters are reported to be above those of last year and other items are running at similar levels to last year.

Even so, there is no escaping a poor start to the 1997 tractor scene. January, February and now March are all down on the same periods last year. March, with 1440 registrations is some 28% down on 1997s score.

AEA economist, Chris Evans believes a number of uncertainties exist in farming – lower product prices and the pending election – which may have led to caution.

There is however, brighter news on the export front. Overall exports of products produced by the agricultural engineering and outdoor power industries rose 14.5% in 1996 to £1550m.

On the back of these figures, imports declined 2.8% to £859m causing the balance of trade to jump 46.9% to an impressive £691m.

This performance, says the AEA, reflects the strength of overseas markets during 1996 and the attractiveness of British products.