Despite the many uncertainties that faced the sector in 2020, sales of new tractors performed quite strongly. The year kicked off holding its own with the exact same amount of tractors registered at the end of March 2020 as had been at the end of March 2019. However, the pandemic had then spread to Ireland and lockdown was implemented on 12 March.

Although machinery dealerships remained open, albeit in a restricted manner, the issue was supply. Reductions in manufacturing capacity due to factory shutdowns on the continent and other impacts on the supply chain were soon reflected in fewer new tractor registrations.

Despite a 38% drop in May registrations, end-of-June figures showed that overall sales were back just 12% on 2019. From here, the recovery began. July witnessed an 8% increase, August a 6% increase, September a 114% increase and October sales were up 2%. The year ended with a tally of 1,910 new units, a drop of just 3% on the 1,968 units registered in 2019. Despite the trials of 2020, sales of new tractors had a credible performance.

Power bands

The trend towards the higher horsepower tractors observed over the past decade has continued. Over 87% of new tractors sold in Ireland in 2020 were in excess of 100hp, 56% over 120hp and 29% over 150hp. The most popular power band is once again the 101hp to 120hp segment, which accounted for 31.6% (603 units) of new tractor sales. The 121hp to 150hp power band accounted for 26.9% of sales, while 21.3% of tractors were between 151hp and 200hp.

Tractor sales figures from 2015 to 2020 show that January remains the most popular month to buy new tractors (with the exception of 2018, when sales in July surpassed those of January).

Comparing and contrasting 2019 and 2020 sales figures, the counties that have experienced the largest increase in tractor sales include Dublin, Kildare, Limerick, Kerry and Clare.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the counties that have witnessed the largest drop in sales include Monaghan, Waterford, Tipperary, Louth and Westmeath. See Figure 1.

Five counties reached triple-digit levels of new tractor registrations during 2020 including Cork (262 units), Tipperary (130 units) and Wexford (130 units). Meanwhile, Monaghan saw the lowest level of registrations with 13 units.

Northern Ireland

According to new figures from the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA), a total of 382 new tractors were registered in Northern Ireland in 2020, down significantly on the 525 new units registered in 2019. This represented a 27.2% drop in sales in the region. Northern Ireland accounted for 4.2% of the total new tractor sales in the UK sales in 2020, down from 5.1% in 2019.

The UK

Meanwhile, a total of 10,380 new units were registered in the UK in 2020 (includes NI registrations). This represents a 13.8% drop on 2019 figures when 12,040 new units registered. This is similar registration figures to the levels recorded in 2015 and 2016, the lowest figures in recent years.

The AEA commented that most of the year-on-year decline took place between April and July, when supply was affected by COVID-19 disruptions.

The average power of tractors registered across the UK during 2020 topped 170hp for the first time, reaching 171hp. That represents a rise of nearly 30hp, compared with a decade ago.