New Tractor Sales in Ireland Show Little Growth in 2022
New tractor sales in Ireland have stagnated over the past few months, according to the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA). Tractor registrations were just 1% up on last year, with only three more units being sold this March compared to twelve months ago. While early hopes for 2022 had seen the year end with an overall 10% decline in sales compared to 2012, which was considered an excellent year for machinery sales, this year started off on an even brighter footing than 2021. However, the situation has deteriorated since, and sales are showing a slowdown from the January high.
Used tractor sales are up as new tractor sales decline in popularity. February and March have seen sales on a par with last year, and it is only the January total that is keeping the rolling total of new registrations significantly ahead at 8%. This lacklustre performance puts a number on the general feeling in the trade that this year is not going to be a bumper sales year.
When talking to dealers, there are two major reasons given for this less-than-expected enthusiasm for new tractors. The first is the cost of new machinery, and the second is the reduction in commodity prices, especially milk, which has returned to the 40c/L level from around 70c of last summer. Within the trade, the generally accepted figure for machinery price inflation over the last two years is around 25%, with examples being given that exceed this level considerably. This, it is maintained, is unsustainable and getting ever harder to justify, especially with steel prices returning to near pre-Covid-19 levels, although it is recognized that energy prices and logistics have added extra costs to production.
Most outlets report adequate stock levels and a reduction in lead times. Indeed, one prominent franchised dealer in the west notes that he is likely to have a surplus of balers this year unless sales pick up. There are also signs that factories are not working to full capacity at the moment. Manufacturers are said to be seeking forward orders, a situation that has not been seen for some time, and suddenly there is no more talk of chip shortages.
As if to underline the effect of increased cost on new tractor sales, there has been a 17% rise in used tractor sales over the year so far. 829 used tractors have been registered in Ireland for the first time in 2023, compared to 706 at this time last year. Budget loaders are enjoying a mini boom as they cost much the same as a good used tractor/loader combination.
The situation is not quite so gloomy with regards to telescopic loaders, which have enjoyed a 38% increase over the year, while wheeled loaders are also up, this time by 21%. The FTMTA notes that it is the budget end of the wheeled-loader market that is enjoying the boom, which may well be a reflection on the shortage of used low-horsepower tractor/loader combinations coming in from the UK.
In conclusion, while new tractor sales in Ireland have shown little growth in 2022, used tractor sales have increased, and budget loaders and telescopic loaders have enjoyed a mini boom. The cost of new machinery and the reduction in commodity prices, especially milk, are the two major reasons given for the less-than-expected enthusiasm for new tractors. Despite this, most outlets report adequate stock levels and a reduction in lead times, and there are signs that factories are not working to full capacity at the moment.