THE end of the drought has fuelled a tractor-selling bonanza across Australia.
Machinery dealers say delivery figures are at record levels, worth about $110 million for the first three months of the year.
- SHARE YOUR VIEW
- Do you plan to upgrade your farm machinery this year?
- Have Your Say in the form below
Tractor and machinery dealers are on track to sell an unprecedented $3 billion of new equipment this year, mainly tractors, headers and baling equipment. Grain prices were poor but two massive harvests gave broadacre farmers enough confidence to invest heavily in the future.
"They have to update at some time, and it looks like this year was it," Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia executive director Richard Lewis said.
Lifestyle, or hobby, farmers have also emerged as major players in the new tractor market. They dominate the compact market, up to 60ha.
Their investment may also have been inspired by the return of the rain, and the return of grass, weeds and fire hazards.
"They buy them fitted with a front-end loader and a slasher," Mr Lewis said.
The TMA said 2238 tractors were delivered during the first three months of 2012 - the best result since records began in 1989.
Sales have been strongest in north Queensland, central western NSW and South Australia. Kubota Tractor Australia marketing manager Mark Taylor said his company had a fantastic order book, with more orders yet to fill.
"I've been at Kubota for more than 20 years and it's the best start to a year I can remember," Mr Taylor said. "Sales have been strong pretty much across the board and we're now making in-roads into the higher horsepower areas."
The heavy harvests of the past two years also brought record sales of combine harvesters, which machinery dealers do not expect to continue.
Mr Lewis said the next three months would be a test for dealers as to whether demand continued. He said late rain damage to grain crops, particularly in 2010, meant an increasing number of farmers shied away from using contractors.
"They're not prepared to take the risk any more, waiting for the contractor to turn up," he said. "They are upgrading their own equipment."