Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Tractor sales under pressure from sterling slide

Derek Casey

Published 15/11/2016 | 17:00

The 2017 tractor of the year from Case IH.
The 2017 tractor of the year from Case IH.

It's been a testing few years for the machinery trade and in particular tractor sales. As the British pound continues its post-Brexit slide, increasing numbers of Irish buyers are travelling north in search of tractor deals.

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It all puts pressure on Irish machinery dealerships who look to make a living from the trade, but what have tractor sales actually been like so far this year and what can dealers likely expect in 2017?

Someone with 40 odd years of experience in the trade is always worth listening to, and that is exactly what Cathal Sweetman of D & S Machinery Ltd brings to the table. Established in 1985, D & S Machinery originally started importing the Ursus range of tractors into Ireland from Poland.

Thirty years on and they have a country wide network of tractor dealers distributing the McCormick and Landini brands.

"Over the last three years the new Irish tractor market has ranged from 1,900-1,950 units, and I think this year will be the same," said Mr Sweetman.

"I have found it very difficult going for a few years now as prices to farmers have been forced downwards.

"What has really made it difficult is that the pressure has hit every sector of farming - milk, cattle, grain, potatoes and vegetables.

"It feels like there are too many people competing for too few sales, which results in overpriced trade ins and new tractors being sold with little or no margin.

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"The other side of the coin is that tractors have increased in price due to engine emissions regulations and advances in electronics. This makes it harder for the average farmer to purchase a tractor."

While he acknowledged that no one can blame anyone for shopping around, Mr Sweetman urged farmers to think of the local dealer the next time they decide to buy a new tractor.

"The way sterling is going plenty are taking their business across the border or to Britain, resulting in Irish dealers being left with stock in their yards.

"I would remind farmers that when they support a local dealer they are guaranteed after sales support if something goes wrong.

"They are also supporting jobs, because the dealer will be employing mechanics who all needed training and who earn a living from the sector.

The equipment, software and stock of spare parts - it comes at a cost."

However, Mr Sweetman remains positive and is predicting more or less the same number of new tractors to be sold in Ireland in 2017.

He also has a suggestion to boost sales. "In Ireland about 70pc of farmers are not registered for VAT. A scheme that would allow unregistered farmers claim the VAT back would make a great difference."

And he adds: As I approach 60 years of age I'm nearly 41 years in the business. I still like it; there's so many good people in the trade."

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