It's been a long year for manufacturing as companies ran hard to contain the effects of COVID-19 among their employees, on their factory floors and on their supply chains. But, as an industry, farm equipment manufacturers are pulling off production and sales no one really expected would be possible just 12 months ago.
Equipment manufacturers are finding, in the majority of months, rising year-over-year sales -- tractors and combines going out the door to customers eager, apparently, to buy.
U.S. farm tractor unit sales are closing in on 12 straight months of growth, while Canada also continues a long growth streak, according to the February 2021 report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).
U.S. total farm tractor sales rose 41.1% in February compared to February 2020. U.S. combine sales fell 18.8% (from 239 units sold in February 2020 to 194 units in February).
This growth streak has been going in the U.S. since April and in Canada since June, said Curt Blades, senior vice president of ag services at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. "However, we're closely watching the bigger units, which are more dependent on the strong commodity prices we're experiencing right now, to see if this trend continues."
Among tractors sold, the hottest market is for tractors with less than 40 horsepower. Small-tractor sales rose 46.8% in February from the same period a year ago. Tractor sales for units between 40-100 hp rose 28%. Sales of two-wheel-drive tractors above 100 hp rose 45.7%.
Bigger, four-wheel-drive tractor sales fell slightly by 3.4%. In terms of units sold, however, the difference between February 2020 and February 2021 was small, amounting to only six tractors.
Earlier this year, Robert Crain, AEM vice-chair and senior vice president and general manager, North America for AGCO Corporation, finds evidence that this expansion has been the quickest recorded in more than two years. Surveys show growing optimism among U.S. farmers for making significant investments in equipment -- perhaps the largest the industry has seen since 2015.
The national farming fleet is as "old as we have ever seen it," said Crain. "It is ready for replacement. [The numbers] suggest positive manufacturing performance, especially for ag in the coming months."
For Canada, February monthly tractor and combine sales grew across all segments, with the sub-40-hp segment leading the way, up 81.5%, 100-plus-hp units and four-wheel-drive units grew big, as well, both up nearly 58%. Combines sales in Canada rose 23.3%.
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