Sales down but British manufacturers shine at Agritechnica

There was mixed news for farm machinery makers this week, with tractor sales in Britain down but export prospects boosted by last week’s Agritechnica show in Germany.

The announcement by the Agricultural Engineers Association that tractor sales in October 2009 were 25% lower than the same month in 2008 is no surprise. After a blistering performance in the first three months of 2009, sales have dropped in every month since.

In fact July, August, September and October have all seen falls of between 25 and 30% compared to the equivalent period last year. That’s completely to be expected, points out the AEA, given that 2008 was a record-breaking sales year driven largely by high grain prices.

With two months to go, it’s hard to predict exactly what the year-end sales figure will be, but the likely final tally is just over the 15,000 mark. Not as good as the 17,104 tractors sold in 2008, but probably not far below the 15,540 sold in 2007, reckons the industry.

Meanwhile, over at the Agritechnica show in Hanover, Germany – reckoned to be the world’s biggest farm machinery exhibition in terms of the value of kit on display – UK manufacturers had a chance to test levels of optimism among European farmers.

When Farmers Weekly spoke to five homegrown manufacturers, the mood was overwhelmingly an optimistic one.

Suffolk firm Shelbourne Reynolds, which exports 70% of what it manufactures, said its diet feeders, shear grabs and cubicles bedders were getting good interest from buyers. “Lots of people and lots of interest,” said the firm’s Neil Smith.

Spearhead machinery from Evesham, Worcestershire, which exports 50% of what it makes, had a giant 12.1m mower that was pulling in the crowds. “The stand was jam-packed,” said export sales manager Antony Price. “We’ve definitely done some good business.”

Lincolnshire sprayer maker Househam was pleased with the levels of interest too. It is looking to boost export sales from its current 10-15% level. “We had farmers and dealers from 22 countries come on the stand,” said the firm’s Mick Hill. “Weak sterling is helping us too.”

The story was similar at JCB, generally reckoned to be the biggest UK-owned farm machinery maker, with two-thirds of its tractors and ag-spec handlers going for export. “Fantastic – a really good show. We’ve done good business, with lots of requests for new machines,” said ag product marketing manager Ed Roach.

York cultivator manufacturer Sumo, too, was pleased with the week’s business, with lots of European farmers and potential distributors impressed by the new Versadrill. The firm’s Stewart Peckitt reckons the level of interest was such that they could add another 10 exporters to the 10 countries they already sell to. “It’s been excellent – absolutely wonderful,” he said.

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