If we could turn “optimism” and “positive sentiments” into sales, 2017 could end up being a pretty good year for farm equipment dealers and manufacturers. We all know that it will take more than rosy outlooks and good feelings to improve our bottom lines; it’s nonetheless good to hear some upbeat news for a change.
And we’re hearing it from other countries beyond North America.
In its March release, CEMA, the European association representing the agricultural machinery industry in Europe, reported that its Business Climate Index rose to +22 in March. This is up from +7 in February and compares to –19 a year ago.
In the March issue of Ag Equipment Intelligence, VDMA, the German association for agricultural machinery, said it is seeing good signs for improving business prospects for the year ahead. While tractor sales we’re down by nearly 11% in 2016, with producer prices increasing for milk and dairy products, along with stronger order books for 2017, the VDMA spokesperson said there’s “no reason for euphoria, but certainly for cautious optimism.”
Last month the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers said U.S. sales of large farm machinery experienced a year-over-year growth of 13% following 36 months of consecutive declines.
USDA’s March crop report improved from February, with the outlook for cash receipts up 8% year-over-year in 2016-17.
The results of the latest Dealer Sentiments & Business Conditions Update survey show that a net 1% of dealers are currently more optimistic about their prospects. This is actually down from +11% last month, but up from –24% a year earlier.
Dealer commentary from the March survey is also revealing: “Our margins on used equipment have improved and we expect that trend to continue for the balance of the year” … “Our backlog is very strong. Farmers were placing orders even if we didn’t have what they wanted on the floor” … “The strength seen at the end of 2016 has persisted through February. Our tractor and planter sales were strong this month.”
On the other hand, some dealers’ remarks were more tempered: “The few new equipment purchases we have seen so far in 2017 have been made out of necessity, similar to 2016” … “The unseasonably warm weather in February led to increased traffic and quoting activity, but it hasn’t translated to sales.”
Now, to rephrase my opening comment: Can we turn “optimism” and “positive sentiments” into sales?