Farm machinery manufacturers have eyes on export market

From Inner Mongolia to Iceland: Sense of optimism prevails at the three-day show

Agricultural correspondent Alison Healy visits the annual Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association show. The three day event at Punchestown is expected to attract 20,000 visitors. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The Rhino is a hulk of a machine. The 14-metre long piece of equipment washes, de-stones and chops sugar beet and it is one of the first things you see when you visit the farm machinery show at Punchestown racecourse.

“That yoke would cost you a few bob,” a man observes as he stands looking at it. More than a few bob. The machine comes in at a cool €170,000 but if that’s a bit pricey, its little brother, the Hippo, will only set you back €90,000.

When Ireland’s sugar beet industry was shut down in 2006 it should have been the death- knell for Cross Engineering, which manufactures these machines in Rathangan, Co Kildare. “I thought we were finished,” recalls Simon Cross. “We took a drop of €8 million in turnover.”

Generate electricity

He started looking at the German market and one thing led to another. “Today we’ve got that turnover back to what it was, thank God. And it’s even better now because in 2006

20 per cent of our turnover were exports and in 2014 it had gone up to 80 per cent.”

Now he is exporting across the EU as well as to New Zealand and Canada. The beet prepared by the Rhino is used by anaerobic digesters to generate electricity. “One of our machines is making most of the electricity that powers Nottingham city,” he says with a hint of pride.

But the Rhino isn’t the most expensive item for sale at the three-day show which is organised by the Farm Tractor and Machinery Association (FTMA). Its chief executive says the priciest machine would probably be a Claas combine which retails at €330,000 plus VAT. And he highlights a Case tractor which packs more than 400 horsepower into its engine. One of its tyres would dwarf the tallest among us.

There is a definite sense of optimism at the machinery show. Milk quotas will be abolished at the end of March, leaving farmers free to produce as much milk as they want. “This means more cows. They’ll eat more so we’ll need more balers, silage harvesters, mowers, diet feeders. And of course there will be more slurry and we’re definitely selling more slurry spreaders,” Mr Ryan says. He points to a 3,500 gallon slurry tank at the show. “If you wanted a machine like that a few years ago you’d have to import it. Now Abbey Machinery is making it in Nenagh.”

Export

Clodagh Cavanagh

She is looking forward to meeting the group of 30 foreign buyers brought to the show by Enterprise Ireland. “They have come from France, Germany, Holland, Canada and Scandinavia,” Mr Ryan says.

Sam Shine is casting his net further afield. Farmers in Inner Mongolia and northern Japan are using maize seeders made by his business, Samco. “The Japanese import 65 per cent of all food so obviously they want to grow more food, which is good news for us,” he says. “We have two Chinese people working with us in Adare, selling machines to Inner Mongolia. A huge market for us.”

“The recession didn’t affect us at all,” he says. “Not a bit.”