Delivery times for new tractors shorten, but backlogs remain

The time between purchasing new agricultural machinery and it being available has dropped back from the long wait times seen in 2022, but remains above established levels.

Delivery times for new tractors are around six months from the time of purchase, according to the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA), down from up to nine months last year.

Average industry lead times for harvesters and telehandlers are at about six-to-nine months, while implements are back below four months.

See also: Strong sales for new tractors and second-hand kit in 2023

Lead times are coming down, according to Stephen Howarth, agricultural economist at the AEA, but are not quite back to normal, particularly for bigger more complex machines with more components.

“Demand was pretty strong through 2021 and 2022 particularly across Europe not just the UK” said Mr Howarth.

Supply chain disruption has led to issues of availability for components during the past year, but has been improving in recent months.

“A range of things were disrupting supply chains, mostly the knock-on effects of the pandemic, which led to shortages, there were well-publicised shortages of semiconductors and microchips, but that situation seems to have eased now,” said Mr Howarth.

Graham Parker, sales director at Essex-based agricultural machinery dealer Ernest Doe, said lead times for new orders from the factory had returned to close to normal levels of three-to-four months.

Mr Parker said the company had placed large orders with manufacturers throughout the past year to ensure supply.

“We have got stock that we can supply customers straight off, so that’s what we are working off at the moment,” he added.

“Components to build the machines are pretty much available now, hence the manufacturers are cracking on to get things done.”

Richard Halsall, group sales manager at Yorkshire-based dealer Ripon Farm Services said: “We have been very lucky with John Deere, in that we’ve had pretty good availability of European sourced machinery. Lead times have been slightly longer than normal, but it hasn’t been a disaster.”

Mr Halsall said that some of the larger American-built tractors still had fairly long lead times, but had fallen from when they had been up to 12 months.

“If you want something bespoke then the lead time is still there and you have got to be prepared to plan ahead, but if its run of the mill and something that we would order for stock and you are happy with a few tweaks then it is easy to get something,” he added.

Interest rates

Higher interest rates are a factor in sales of larger pieces of equipment and tractors, both for suppliers and farm businesses.

One agricultural supplier told Farmers Weekly that any dealer that has stock and borrows money will be feeling the effect of higher interest rates.

“It’s a buyers’ market at the moment, customers know if a dealer has a lot of stock, then they can push for a hard deal,” they said.

A second supplier said interest rates are creating a big change for purchasers of big ticket items, with customers who are used to paying very low rates coming to renew four years down the line and finding a very different outlook.

Labour shortages

The labour market and difficulty of getting workers is becoming more of a concern for the machinery industry, according to Mr Howarth.

“It’s not having a huge impact at the moment, but it’s beginning to become something that people are keeping an eye on,” he said.

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