French industry is fearing worst from new BSEbacklash

23 February 2001

French industry is fearing worst from new BSEbacklash

HAUNTED by the spectre of BSE, the French machinery industry is bracing itself to deal with the full impact of the crisis on domestic machinery sales.

French farmers and machinery suppliers hope support from either Brussels or the French government will help them through the crisis, said Dominique Opillard, foreign trade manager for the French machinery manufacturers association SYGMA.

"We strongly hope that the French farming unions and our own organisation are successful in winning help for French beef producers. Without it, the consequences could be severe," he says. So far the crisis, which began to bite last November, has had little effect on the machinery market.

Although tractor sales fell by nearly 10% to 34,511 units last year, it reflected the completion of a five-year investment programme on many farms, rather than a decline in incomes, says Mr Opillard. Similarly, the movement of combine harvesters dropped by nearly 18% to 2233 units in the year to Aug 31, 2000, compared with the previous season.

Sales of forage equipment showed mixed results last season. Although deliveries of round balers were nearly 2% down on the previous season, self-propelled forage harvesters closed nearly 17% down at the end of Oct compared with the previous 12 months.

The downturn in the forage sector was confirmed by the managing director of Krone, Wilhelm Voss. "Since the start of the BSE crisis, we have noted an 8-10% decline in the market for hay and forage equipment in France," he says.

Sales of forage equipment in Germany are expected to drop 25% in the period to Sept 1, 2001.

proving less resilient. "We expect a 25% drop in domestic sales for the 12 months following Sept 1, 2000," says Mr Voss.

Compared with the effects of the BSE crisis in Germany, Mr Voss described the French downturn as "a hiccup". Nevertheless, Mr Opillard predicted a further 10% drop in tractor sales this year, matched by a similar fall in the number of combine harvesters down to 2000 units.

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