The head of a prominent Victorian farm machinery dealership says the company’s expansion into drought-stricken NSW is a long-term play.
The Western Victorian O'Connors group now has a significant presence north of the Murray River, having agreed to acquire the McClintock group in Forbes, West Wyalong and Grenfell, NSW.
It has also opened in Condobolin, NSW, bringing its dealerships to 10 in Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
O’Connors chief executive Gareth Webb said the business had been looking to expand and the McClintock dealerships presented a perfect fit.
“We believe this is a solid farming region we are very keen to invest in,” Mr Webb said.
He said while it might not seem expansion during a drought was a good idea, the areas O’Connors was buying into had a bright future.
“We believe this is a solid farming region, we are very keen to invest in it,” he said.
“I just really think it’s the reality of farming in Australia, it’s up and down, it’s seasonally based, and we take very much a long-term view.
“We would be mad to be in this industry, if we only looked one year ahead.”
He said broadacre farming, predominantly in the areas where the new dealerships were, provided a customer base O’Connors knew and understood.
“Farmers are becoming more and more professional, all the time, and better able to handle the ups and downs of farming,” he said.
O’Connors marketing manager Lisa Day said the company would establish its new dealerships, before looking to further expand.
“We like to get them established and well set up,” Ms Day said.
“The way farmers manage drought has changed a lot, and they don’t stop buying machinery, because of one dry year.”
She said another important part of the business, apart from sales, was support.
“We have a lot of strength in that area, given the size of the dealership network,” she said.
O’Connors is now the largest Case IH dealership, in Australia.
A further slide in agricultural machinery sales was expected, when November’s sales figures were released next week, according to Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia executive director Gary Northover.
Mr Northover said October saw a “steadying of the ship”, following a dramatic downturn in September, where tractor sales dropped markedly.
“The story across the nation was reasonable.
“However, the most drought-affected regions of NSW continue to be hard hit, with sales still in decline.”
While the drought was the headline issue, there was conservatism creeping in among farmers.
“It’s a bag of things, the stock market, trade wars on the horizon and interest rates – the net interest rate dealers are selling tractors for is creeping up a little,” he said.