The announcement by the Taoiseach on Friday night has seen the introduction of more restrictive measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. This has changed the situation for the farm machinery sector.

Machinery dealerships who sell and service machines will only operate in certain circumstances, while machinery manufacturers are counted as an essential service and can continue to operate as they are.

“Our trade is no longer in the category of essential businesses that can continue relatively normal operations, as we were since Tuesday 24 March,” Gary Ryan of the FTMTA told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“We now fall into a more restricted category that can only offer emergency callout or delivery services,” Ryan said. “Based on the restricted category that we fall into, FTMTA believes that a reduced level of activity is still permissible under tight controls - a limited parts supply, on farm service/repair operation and the installation of new machines on farm.

“It is clear that that the doors must be closed to the public and that non-essential staff can no longer be allowed to attend at the premises.”

Common sense

“As a sector, we need to use common sense in how we continue to operate. The key thing that Government is trying to achieve with the new restrictions is to further enhance the level of social distancing and reduce the number of contacts of any individual,” said the FTMTA boss.

“This virus has spread into the community and must be contained. We all need to do our bit.”

Advice to dealers

“In the context of no longer opening the business to the public, we are still allowed to operate in a limited way in relation to parts and service,” explained Ryan.

The advice to the FTMTA members is as follows:

  • Close the gates. Post notices at the gate advising that the business is now allowed to provide an emergency callout or delivery service only; give a specific phone number on which the business can be contacted.
  • Take parts order by phone only where possible. In the situation where the customer is not sure what exact part they need, deal with that at the counter by arrangement and within the social distancing and hygiene framework.
  • Service/repair on farm is not an issue and can continue. Some jobs will need to go to workshops - so be it - but please do not allow the customer into the workshop, take receipt of the machine in the yard and sanitise all surfaces that will be worked on. Return of the machine should be done in the same way.
  • Delivery of parts should still be possible by courier but it will probably take longer than normal.
  • The farmer customer is less restricted than most sectors and is allowed to go about their farming business and that would include travelling to your premises for collections. Handle that in accordance with social distancing - give the customer a time to call and leave the parts out.
  • Never have two customers collecting at the same time - that is not social distancing. Please advise the customers not to leave their vehicle until you tell them to do so and then leave the parts out.
  • It is a busy time of the year and there are machines in yards that are sold and due to go. Delivery is allowed and the above scenario of the customer calling to collect under strict guidelines would also apply.
  • Closed to the public

    Ryan summarised the changes for dealerships by saying: “The business is closed to the public and that needs to be obvious and consistent. The customer will give you little thanks for bending the rules for him if a future infection is later traced back to that interaction.

    “We are in this together and people have to follow the restrictions. This is not a drill. This is a real emergency - the greatest that we will ever face, hopefully.”

    Machinery manufacturers

    “Based on the updated list of essential service providers under new public health guidelines, agricultural machinery manufacturing can continue,” Ryan said.

    “The list of manufacturing activities that can continue includes the following wording: the manufacture of products necessary for the supply chain of essential services; computer, electronic and optical products including semi-conductors; electrical equipment, machinery and other equipment (including agricultural and forestry machinery); medical devices; and medical and dental equipment and supplies.”

    “This seems black and white - agricultural machinery manufacturing can continue due to its role in the supply chain for agriculture,” explained Ryan.