Tractor sales eased off over the harvest period, ending a run of four months of double-digit growth compared with 2017 sales levels.
Tractor registration figures published by the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA), the trade body representing tractor and machinery manufacturers, show sales of new tractors larger than 50hp in August were nearly 2% lower than the previous year at 862 units.
However, total sales during the first eight months of 2018 remain 7.7% ahead of last year’s levels at 8,738 units.
AEA agricultural economist Stephen Howarth said new tractor registrations had taken “a breather” during August.
“It remains to be seen whether this is a short-term blip or represents the start of a reversal of fortunes, after the robust growth seen in the first seven months of the year.”
Mr Howarth said the pressures of this summer’s drought conditions may have been a contributory factor in sales falling back.
Although many of the tractors registered in August would have been ordered during May – before the full impact of the hot and dry conditions had been felt – crops were starting to show signs of drought stress at that point.
“Or it may just be a case that we’ve had three or four very strong months and the purchasing for this year has happened.
“August is also a busy month for farmers and hence a relatively low month [for sales] anyway.
“There is no particular sign that for other types of farm machinery there has been a slow down during August,” he added.
The biggest month for tractor purchases this year was March, when dealers sold 1,650 machines.
But the month with the strongest growth in sales was July, when farmers and contractors bought 1,347 units, compared with 1,091 in July 2017 and 942 in July 2016.