At the AGM of the Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association (FTMTA) held in early September, the mood of those in attendance could best be described as positive, according to the association
During a discussion on the state of the trade, the feeling that the machinery sector had started the year somewhat apprehensively – but that business improved as the year progressed, and especially as the very wet conditions of winter and spring passed – was echoed by most of those present.
The president of the association, Mr Donal Fitzpatrick of Monasterevin-based dealer JH Fitzpatrick Ltd, perhaps summed up the overall mood during his address to the meeting when he said: “2016 has probably been a lot better so far than we could have expected. Tractor sales are up slightly and other grass equipment, while slow to get going, has performed well in the end. After the pleasant weather of last October and November, the rain came in early December and stayed with us for a long time. Once the weather improved so did the market.”
The FTMTA president stated that while “sales of new tractors are far from the whole picture, the tractor registration statistics show a market holding its own to some extent in the face of challenging commodity prices”.
Addressing Brexit, Mr Fitzpatrick said that while “the issue has occupied many column inches in the last couple of months, to a large extent all the speculation, for that is what most of it is, serves no purpose. Assuming Brexit goes through, nobody can yet say what shape the EU’s relationship with the UK will take. Therefore, I believe that it is too early to say what the impact of the UK exiting the EU will be for the Irish machinery sector, or indeed any other sector, in the long term. Much will depend on what sort of subsequent relationship is negotiated between the UK and EU. Irish manufacturers have a worldwide reputation for high-quality and innovative agricultural mechanisation solutions, mainly based on Irish livestock and dairy farming’s strengths in grass-based production. A significant element of Irish machinery production goes to markets much further afield than in the past, with substantial markets in continental Europe and also as distant as the southern hemisphere.
“FTMTA also includes some Northern Ireland-based manufacturers in its membership and wants to see those firms continue to have competitive access to the market in the Republic and wider EU.”
The FTMTA president stressed that, while anecdotally a weaker sterling has the potential to drive imports of used machinery from the UK, in reality customers are in most cases happier to have the security of buying through their local dealer rather than from a UK dealer or auction house which may not offer them the support and service they may require.
During his address, Mr Fitzpatrick highlighted that “the association continues to work on representing and helping the industry and member firms in many ways that are largely unseen. The work done last year on clarifying the requirements of the sprayer testing regime under the Sustainable Use Directive is a good example of activity which goes largely unseen when it succeeds but can only be done by a body such as the association.
“We are working to make the association more relevant to members on an ongoing basis and to this end, I am happy to see a number of new faces on Council, all of whom bring their own experience and views to the table.”
The president thanked his fellow members of the Executive Council for the time and effort that they put into the service of the association and industry and stated that he is honoured to have served as the president of the association and hopes that the FTMTA can, and will, develop further to the benefit of the sector and its membership