UK exports of farm machinery were up by 4%, in value terms, in 2018, compared with the previous year, according to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This brought the total for the year to £1.73 billion, £68 million more than in 2017. Tractors made up a little under two-thirds of the total, with the value of sales up 3%; exports of other farm equipment rose by 5% to just over £600 million. These figures exclude some types of machinery which can’t be identified separately in the trade data (e.g. ATVs, telehandlers) and include used machines and parts (except for some tractor parts) as well as new finished machines.
The growth in exports was mainly confined to the first half of the year, when the value of shipments was up by 12% year on year. In the second half of the year, exports were down 2%. The reasons for this slowdown are not immediately obvious, although it may be partly because the effect of the depreciation of the pound in 2016 has worn off. Whatever the cause, the slowdown was apparent in the second half of the year across most types of equipment and both EU and non-EU markets.
During the course of the year, 63% of exports went to other EU countries, up from 60% in 2017as sales to European markets increased by 9%. Meanwhile, exports to non-EU countries declined by 4%, despite a 30% rise in shipments to the largest such market, the United States, which was the single largest buyer of UK machinery exports.
After the USA, the next eight largest markets were all in the EU and, apart from Italy, they all took more UK exports in 2018 than in 2017. France and Ireland were the two leading buyers and also recorded the largest growth in absolute terms after the US. While most of the sales growth came from the leading markets, there were also some smaller markets which experienced rapid growth in exports during the year, such as Mexico, the Philippines and Russia, which together accounted for an extra £16 million of exports in 2018, compared with the year before.
On the other hand, some important markets suffered reverses. The most significant decline was in sales to Turkey, little surprise given the economic difficulties there in 2018. Other markets showing big falls include Thailand, Canada, Ukraine and South Africa, although for the last three this was entirely due to lower exports of tractors, with modest growth in other machinery exports. There were also drops in exports to the Scandinavian countries and China.
The AEA is the trade association representing the manufacturers, importers and distributors of farm and outdoor power equipment in the UK. Among the services available to members are a much wider range of statistics and economic analysis about the machinery and agricultural markets.