End-of-year tractor sales drive machinery market recovery

The performance of the tractor market has rallied significantly. Photo: Alf Harvey/HR Photo
The performance of the tractor market has rallied significantly. Photo: Alf Harvey/HR Photo
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

The latest tractor and self-propelled machinery registration statistics from the Farm Tractor & Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) highlight a decent year for sales in general, with a substantial recovery in the Irish tractor market after a sluggish start to 2018.

There were very strong performances for sales of telehandlers, self-propelled foragers, wheeled and backhoe loaders.

Tractor sales

The year started on a very downbeat note with 29pc less tractors registered in January than in the same month of 2017. Given the significant share of the annual market normally accounted for by January registrations, this fall caused understandable pessimism in the Irish machinery trade in relation to the outlook for the remainder of the year.

However, according to Gary Ryan of the FTMTA, the performance of the tractor market in the intervening months has rallied significantly and defied expectation.

"Last month saw 43 new tractors registered bringing the total for the first 11 months of the year to 1,738 units, which is a less than 2pc drop on the corresponding period in 2017," Mr Ryan explained.

"A notable feature of the year was a very strong level of registrations in July which has become a key month for registrations of all types since the introduction of the split registration year in 2013. This year's July registrations actually exceeded those of January by 11 units."

Cork leads the way

The three counties with the highest levels of registrations continue to be Cork, Tipperary and Wexford with 224, 143 and 138 units registered respectively to the end of November.

The trend towards higher power tractors in the Irish market is maintained in the most recent registration figures with 89pc of all new tractors registered during 2018 having in excess of 100hp, 54pc over 120hp and 27pc over 150hp.

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Mr Ryan said telehandler registrations to the end of November indicate that demand for this category of machine is continuing at the strong levels seen in recent years. There were 14 telehandlers registered in November bringing the overall level of telehandler registrations for the first 11 months of 2018 to 372 units, which is a year-on-year increase of 24pc and which is also significantly ahead of the full year total for 2017 of 303 units.

Many of these units are destined for the construction sector but the FTMTA believe a growing amount of such machines are also in use in Irish farming and agricultural contracting businesses.

Wheeled loaders have also seen a good year with 112 units registered to the end of November in comparison to 85 units during the full year of 2017. Backhoe loaders have also witnessed somewhat of a resurgence in the last couple of years; from a low of 40 units in 2015, 52 backhoes were registered in 2017 and 70 have been registered in 2018 to the end of November.

31 silage harvesters sold

While tractor sales held their own during 2018, buying sentiment for sales of smaller farmer-spec mowers and rakes was reduced. The summer drought meant such items sold at levels well below the norm for a number of months as grass yields suffered and fodder reserves were used early. Contractors did, however, buy plenty of self-propelled silage harvesters in 2018, with total sales of 31 units recorded during the year.

Winter feeding boom

The drought and fodder shortage did have some silver linings for certain lines of machinery. Sales of winter feeding lines such as diet feeders and straw blowers proved very strong during 2018 on the back of the fodder crisis. Normally business wouldn't start for diet feeders until after the Ploughing Championships, but this year by the end of July a number of machines had already been sold by dealers.

Indeed, some importers reported running out of stock of diet feeders as early as September this year. Lead times for some new diet feeders are currently running into April 2019, which is an indication of demand.

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