UK tractor sales highest for three years

March 2017 saw the highest number of new tractor sales for three years, according to figures from the Agricultural Engineers Association in the UK.

Registrations of agricultural tractors over 50hp reached 1770 units, which is 43.2% higher than in March 2016.

The number of units sold over the first quarter of the year is now 3024 units, which is also 27% higher than the same period a year ago.

Stephen Howarth, agricultural economist for the AEA, said it was traditional for there to be a spike in new registrations in March, with one factor being the fact that it was the month when new registration plates came out.

“Farmers are also feeling better off, with farm incomes rising, and having been through a difficult couple of years many will have put off purchasing until now,” he said.

“So there is probably an element of ‘catching up’ going on.

“There may also be an element of expectation that prices for farm machinery will be rising further through this year because of exchange rate factors. Prices have already come up a bit, but I think people are thinking they may come up a bit more and that may have helped sales.

“However, we have to bear in mind we’re comparing it against last year, which was a particularly bad year, so while it has come up quite a lot, in the historic context, sales are not especially high.”

Mr Howarth said the increase has been particularly noticeable in the south-west of England and the east of England, with sales flatter in the Midlands and the north of England.

“There’s no obvious split between arable regions and livestock regions,” he said.

Simon Wearmouth, divisional partner at Brown & Co’s Norwich office, said the market for second-hand machinery has really picked up since last October.

“There are a lot more buyers globally, particularly buyers from Poland and Romania, who are coming into the UK market quite hard and competing with UK dealers for second-hand machinery,” he said.

Buyers from Eastern Europe were particularly keen on the larger horsepower tractors, although there was demand for any machines that were well maintained.

“We’re also regularly selling machines to New Zealand, the US, Israel and into Africa. These guys have become more prevalent.”

Mr Wearmouth said the fall in the value of sterling has been one of the factors driving increased demand, but another factor is people becoming more comfortable with the concept of timed online machinery auctions and bidding live online during dispersal sales.

UK dealers are also looking for extra stock as increased export demand has helped to clear out their yards.

Farmers who had decided they could not justify a new tractor after the price hikes as a result of currency changes, are also looking to the second-hand market.

“There are a lot of buyers out there,” he said.