British farmers are provisionally estimated to have spent in the order of £1.9 billion on farm equipment in 2013, a drop of 4% on a year earlier.

Tractors are generally the best indicator of activity and 12,498 units of over 50hp were registered, a decrease of 10.4% on the previous year. The average power has continued to move up, to 150.4hp this year.

The next major sub-sector of the market is the combine harvester; sales have been at a much lower level in the last seasonal year (September to August) reaching 770 units, down almost a third. However, the opening months of the current season (since September) have proved stronger than a year earlier so that the value of sales on a calendar year base is expected to be little changed on 2012.

Another major sector in terms of machine value is the self-propelled forage harvester, sales of which reached 150 units in the seasonal year; after a poor early period grass growth recovered and the fodder crop eventually proved satisfactory so the decline in unit sales in the calendar year was held to around 7%.

Many other machine types saw a decline in unit deliveries in 2013 although certain cultivation categories such as mounted drills, power harrows and tined cultivators showed a year-on-year increase. There was a small increase in the number of balers sold with large rectangular units showing a slight decrease but this being offset by a rise in deliveries of round balers with wrapper combinations advancing.

After a challenging winter and spring period both for farmers and their suppliers, the later part of the year improved and demand for machinery followed suit as illustrated in tractor registrations where the market was down 20% in the first 6 months whereas the second half saw a 3% improvement on a year earlier.

The short term conditions for farming remain of concern with large areas of the country currently under water but should climatic conditions revert to a more normal pattern then we would expect a small improvement in farm incomes this year and an associated modest rise in demand for machinery.