A shot in the dark …tackle sales dip but no big crash
By Andy Collings
NOT quite Mystic Meg, but on his own admission in the same profession when it comes to making accurate forecasts, AEA economist Chris Evans took a stab at predicting how the UKs machinery market would fare in 1997.
"Its going to be less good than the last two years," he says. "But when compared to the slump of the early 90s, still very reasonable."
In terms of tractor sales, Mr Evans believes numbers will continue to fall – but not too steeply – to plateau at below 18,000 units.
"In 1996 the total number of tractors sold was slightly down on the previous years 19,000 but the actual value of the trade was at least the same, if not more. In other words, fewer tractors were sold but they were larger."
Mr Evans puts the value of the UK tractor market in 1996 at about £530m and other machinery at £670m, which makes the total UK machinery market worth some £1200m.
There have been some notable increases in certain sectors during 1996. Sales of combines excelled themselves with a dramatic increase of 30% on what is generally regarded as a reasonably static market worth about 1000 units/year.
"This figure is clearly set to drop," says Mr Evans. "As is the number of big square balers sold – the 300 sold last year was a tremendous amount."
Predicted to stay at the same level are sales of self-propelled forage harvesters due, he claims, to the increase in the area of maize being planted.
Now for the good news: "Sales of ancillary equipment such as muck spreaders, tractor loaders or bale wrappers took a heavy knock in 1996. It could be these sales will recover in 1997 now that stock farmers have come to terms with the BSE crisis," says Mr Evans.
Overall, Mr Evans feels quietly optimistic for machinery sales in 1997. "The farming business is still in good shape despite lower prices – and there is money about."
Combine makers had a bumper sales year in 1996, but prospects for the next 12 months look less certain. The same applies to UKtractor sales.