11 January 2000
Tractor sales reflect farming slump

By FWi staff

TRACTOR sales last year increased by more than 14% – but were still the second-lowest ever recorded, reflecting the depressed state of British farming.

Only 10,969 agricultural tractors over 40hp were registered in the UK during 1999, reveal figures from the Agricultural Engineers Association.

Chris Evans, AEA economist, said that the 14.4% increase in sales was welcome, but only 1998 prevented 1999 from being the worst year on record.

Mr Evans predicted farming would remain in the doldrums. Without any recovery, tractor sales for the early part of 2000 would remain modest, he said.

Any full recovery for farmers would depend on improvements of produce prices and a reduction in the value of the Pound, Mr Evans added.

The average size of unit sold in 1999 was 116.6hp, he said. This rise of 6.7% left the total horsepower sold at 1.279bn hp – an increase of 22%.

The increase in power is attributed to restructuring in agriculture, with farmers favouring fewer larger machines in a bid to reduce unit costs.

The slump means that tractor sales have almost halved since the most recent major peak year of 1995, when 19,000 vehicles were sold.

Last year also saw a change in seasonal buying patterns, reflecting the changes in the dates when age-identifier number plates are issued.

The autumn sales peak, coinciding with the release of new number plates, has been replaced by peaks in March and September, when new plates are now issued.