Signposts to better times

Big farm machinery sales early in the New Year are always a bell-weather for the industry. Chris Berry reports

The headline acts in the farming calendar each January are the agricultural machinery shows. These are put on either by leading farm machinery companies or organisations.

They are seen as the first opportunity for social gatherings for the rural community in the new year but they are also important events times for catching the mood of the industry. In good times farmers spend on updating their agricultural equipment and just like anyone else their heads can be turned by how well a machine looks on display.

The grand-daddy event of them all is LAMMA which started life as the Lincolnshire Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers Association Show in 1981 and celebrates its 30th year at Newark Showground shortly.

It has now become the largest farm machinery show in the UK, having seen off the Royal Smithfield Show and the Royal Show in the past decade.

Farmers like it not only because every manufacturer and a plethora of farm machinery dealers are present – including many from Yorkshire.

Chris Evans of the AEA, which monitors and supplies information about the agricultural machinery market, believes that this year could well prove to be a buoyant one.

"The farming picture, as always, is quite mixed," he says. "But among the arable sector, with the current high price of grain, there is a general level of confidence. A high proportion of arable farmers would seem to be in a favourable position. However, this has to be tempered by the high input costs everyone is facing and not everyone has made money.

"Those who sold their grain early, when prices were lower, and have also suffered high input costs will not be in such a favourable position. But we are anticipating that there will be a larger number of farmers looking to spend on new tractors and farm equipment this year.

"When farmers are making money they like to spend it on new equipment."

While tractors are not necessarily purchased at shows, inquiries are made and tractor sales reach a high between March and July.

Geoff Brown, managing director of Ripon Farm Services, which sells the John Deere brand, says: "It takes a lot to put on an event like this but we feel it gives our customers and those we would like to talk to an opportunity to see what we have on offer."

Andrew Waddington, managing director of Farmstar, which sells the Case brand, believes the annual open days are a vital part of his company's marketing.

He says: "We spend a lot of our time on the phone or out on farms with our customers. This gives them a chance to come and see us and enjoy their day. It's an ideal social and business day all in one."

CW 8/1/11