WA tractor sales slow right up after record harvest

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeThe West Australian
Grain harvesting at Cherylton Farms.
Camera IconGrain harvesting at Cherylton Farms. Credit: Ben Simpson OGA Creative

WA tractor sales dipped 28 per cent in January, the most of out of any Australian jurisdiction that month, with the State’s machinery industry in a “slow period” after a hectic few months bringing in the record harvest.

But Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia executive director Gary Northover said not too much should be read into the WA figures — released in the TMA’s first sale report for the year — and were to be expected after farmers harvested a record 24mt crop.

Mr Northover said the end of the “frantic harvest season” meant sales in WA dropped in January after also dipping 1 per cent month-on-month in December as growers worked long hours.

“The (WA) industry is in somewhat of a slow period following an extremely busy end to 2021, however it may be wise not to read too much into one month’s worth of figures,” Mr Northover said.

“Taking a look at the performance reporting categories, the large 200 horsepower-plus range was down 45 per cent (nationally), compared to the same month last year. This result is behind the drop in the west.”

WA had a strong year for tractor sales in 2021, finishing the calendar year up 33 per cent on 2020.

The State’s slow January bucked a national trend for tractor sales to increase, with tractor sales the strongest in the Northern Territory where they rose 22 per cent.

Mr Northover said the national farm machinery industry had a “frantic nature” at the moment, with dealerships continuing to deliver to customers at a level “not seen for many years”.

“Customer demand has been extreme from both a machinery and parts and service perspective in support of this year’s harvest,” he said.

“Dealers continue to deal with the challenges associated with managing workforces around COVID restrictions, the ongoing shortage of stock and the occasional ‘hand grenade’ such as the shortage of AdBlue.”

Mr Northover said tractor sales in NSW were broadly equivalent to last January, while Queensland figures were strong again, up 4 per cent while Victoria was up 7 per cent.

Sales in South Australia dropped 11 per cent, while sales in Tasmania fluctuated to finish down 22 per cent.

Nationally, both the small under 40 horsepower category and the 40 to 100 horsepower categories were up 6 per cent.

The 100 to 200 horsepower category was up nine per cent.

More than 1000 combine harvesters were sold nationwide last year, for the first time since 2011, while more than 18,000 new tractors were sold — demonstrating a collective appetite to invest in farm businesses and bolster productivity.

Mr Northover said dealers were expecting another strong year with the order intake for 2022 under way.

Baler sales were slightly down in January, while sales for out-front mowers finished down 26 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Mr Northover said the industry was still battling machinery supply challenges with “supply chain shortages around the world showing no signs of abating”.

“The forecast for 2022 is for another solid year supported by very healthy commodities markets,” he said.

“In some ways, the long lead times has been of benefit to the industry in that it has had the effect of ‘smoothing out’ the peak in demand.

“Had ready supply been available through 2021, then one suspects it may have been too much to handle.”

The Tractor and Machinery Association of WA is planning its 2022 conference for Melbourne on July 20.

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