Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Bargain hunting for machinery north of the border

Have euro gains helped farmers down south, asks Chris McCullough

NC Engineering, based in Hamiltosbawn, Co Armagh
NC Engineering, based in Hamiltosbawn, Co Armagh

With the pound and the euro values coming closer to parity these days due to the threat of Brexit, there should be solid opportunity for southern farmers to get some bargains across the border in the North.

As e1 equals £0.90, farm machinery, livestock equipment and animal feeds are much more attractive in the north and could save local farmers a lot of money.

With southern registered vehicles filling the shopping centre car parks of border towns, Brexit, even though it hasn't happened yet, is sending shopping trends spiralling.

But does Brexit, or the threat of it, have the same effect on farmers? The Farming Independent contacted a number of outlets in the North and asked if they were experiencing any increase in business from the south.

Most reported that there was some increased activity but highlighted that it did not always mean any extra business.

However, some companies are indeed enjoying new business from the south.

One elephant in the room though, that did emerge, was that although there are plenty of customers from the Republic of Ireland expressing a wish to purchase, the stumbling block was credit.

It appears that some banks based in the Republic of Ireland are reluctant to loan money for major purchases in the North but won't give any real reason for it.

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One Kerry farmer who wanted to buy a pickup in the North was told the risk of lending to purchase a machine in the North was too high as the future under Brexit was so uncertain.

Seems very strange but overall, with farming returns as low as they are, there is a trend appearing that there isn't enough free capital on farms to make any major purchases in the North, even though the exchange rate is very attractive.

Mackin's Animal Feeds, Newry, Co Down

Mackin's Animal Feeds is a family business that has been in existence for over 30 years and is run by Peter Mackin. The business supplies animal feed to a number of livestock sectors and is based on the Dublin Road just outside Newry.

Peter Mackin said: "We have always supplied customers in the south and have endured many currency fluctuations, even from the time the punt was in circulation.

"But over the past two months and due to the weaker pound, we are experiencing more business from the south.

"We have quite a few inquiries from farmers from as far away as Cork who are buying livestock drinkers and troughs, items that can be easily sent by courier. They are taking advantage of the weak pound and are prepared to pay the delivery fee on top, without hesitation.

"We would deliver animal feed as far south as Drogheda which - due to the excellent road network - is easier for us to travel to than some areas closer to us in the North.

"Brexit certainly has increased our business. We have been offering 90 pence to the euro and it is definitely boosting business for us. We also have enquiries from Kerry livestock equipment as well," he said.

Nelson Alexander Tractors, Toomebridge, Co Antrim

Alexander Tractors has been importing and exporting farm equipment and tractors since 1975. Today the business stocks around 150 quality used tractors and sells them all over the world.

"We are seeing a bit more interest from farmers in the south enquiring about tractors and pickups but the end business is nothing like it should be given the currency rates," said James Alexander.

"Historically, we have been dealing with customers in the south for a number of years but it hasn't changed that much since Brexit was announced.

"We thought there would be more southern tractor customers coming this way. We do sell a lot of pickups into the southern market though, to customers who, even with the VAT and VRT are still saving money. About 75pc of our pickup sales are to customers in the south.

"However, there may be a desire to make purchases but obtaining credit in the south seems to be an issue. We had one customer from Kerry who wanted to buy one of our used pickups but the bank would not lend him the money as the purchase was in the north. Tractors are selling to other destinations though. Last week we sold some New Holland tractors into Thailand and into Iraq via Turkey as demand there is picking up."

NC Engineering, Hamiltonsbawn, Co Armagh

NC Engineering manufactures a number of agricultural machinery products since 1976 including various trailers, slurry tankers and pumps, and telehandlers.

Joint director Wilfred Carson said: "It's really strange as we haven't noticed any huge impact from the weaker pound as yet. The phones are ringing off the hook from people in the south but there isn't a noticeable increase in business being done since Brexit was announced.

"We already sell good numbers of dump trailers, low loaders and some handlers to the south, but sales of slurry pumps would be slightly higher as they are more affordable.

"For the past two years there has been huge problems for farmers in the south obtaining credit and it's no different today," he said.

Sean McGivern, straw dealer, Annaclone, Co Down

Sean McGivern has been dealing in straw for years and is always out on his lorry picking up loads and delivering.

He normally receives around three calls per week from straw buyers in the Republic looking for bales but now he could receive three calls a day from southern customers.

"Big bales of straw are in big demand but the normal trend is for farmers in the north buying it from the south. However, this year's yields are down and there just isn't the same tonnage of straw around.

"In fact, come January or February there will be none for sale such is the short supply.

"This is pushing up prices but it is in big demand. I had a call from Cork this week wanting 1,000 big bales of straw which is a tall order to fill."

Trailers from NC Engineering in Co Armagh and (below) James Alexander of Nelson Alexander Tractors in Co Antrim. Both firms say credit has been an issue for farmers wanting to buy in the North.

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