Tractor sales start the year with a (gentle) bang

Tractor sales for 2011 have started off with a bit of a bang, according to the latest figures from the Agricultural Engineers Association.

The association reports that 604 tractors were sold in January 2011 compared to 516 in the same month last year.

However, the AEA is cautious about predicting a boom year for tractor sales, pointing out that 2010 was a pretty good year and that sales didn’t drop as much as expected after the 2007-2008 peak. Also, although spot and forward grain prices remain high, a lot of farmers sold forward for last harvest at lower prices.

Add to that worries about rising fuel and fertiliser costs, plus often not knowing exactly how much corn there is in the barn from last harvest, and you have a recipe for understandable caution.

How are other machine types faring? Here’s a snapshot from 2010:

• Combines. Because the vast bulk of combines are sold in the October-to-December period, the combine sales year runs from September to August. Sales in the period September 2008 to August 2009 were a healthy 945, but then dropped in the period September 2009 to August 2010 to 825.

However, the industry is expecting sales to exceed that figure in the September 2010 to August 2011 period, thanks partly to a surprise run on smaller combines by farmers who are in some cases replacing quite old machines.

• Fertiliser spreaders. Some 2000 fertiliser spreaders were sold in 2009, but that figure rose to 2800 last year. The reason for the jump isn’t clear, but rising fertiliser prices and the fact that these are still a relatively low-cost item could be factors.

• Ploughs. Although plough sales have generally held up well despite the rise of min-till, they did drop from some 1200 sales in 2008 and 2009 to 900 in 2010. However, that may simply be a return to normal levels (in 2007, 875 ploughs were sold).

•Balers. Big square balers (which are mainly bought by contractors) dropped from 300 sales in 2009 to 250 in 2010. By contrast, round balers (which are mainly bought by farmers) held steady at 1400 sales in 2009 and 1375 in 2010.

• Mowers and mower conditioners. This market is rising slightly, with 2750 mowers sold in 2009 and roughly 2900 sold in 2010.

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