As Claas continues to invest in new central and eastern European markets, it says it is becoming more optimistic that global demand for agricultural machinery is recovering.

Speaking at the launch of a third- generation Lexion combine, Lothar Kriszun, the group’s executive vice president for sales, said stronger farm commodity prices and an improving general economic outlook are giving farmers confidence to renew investment spending in agricultural machinery.

“I believe we will have a continuous, but not too dramatic, upward trend in machinery sales,” he said. “The market will develop positively but slowly.”

While Kriszun forecast North American combine sales staying flat to gaining 5% in a world market currently at 2009 levels, he predicts 10-20% gains in Eastern Europe this year and a 20% and 30% recovery across Central and Western Europe.

Having reduced its cost base by $130 million in response to the market downturn, Claas says it will maintain its own investment spending, especially in emerging markets.

In Russia, the company is preparing to expand its combine and tractor assembly plant by adding a component manufacturing facility. The Krasnodar plant has built 2,000 machines since it opened in 2005 — mainly combines but also some high-horsepower tractors — chiefly using components and assemblies supplied by the parent factory plus some locally-produced content.