Agricultural implements are driving farm mechanisation. With a shortage of farm labour and rising costs, various implements with tractors help perform not only farm tasks, but also tasks such as moving earth, typical of a backhoe loader.
INDIA ranks second in farm output worldwide. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry, logging and fishing accounted for 17 per cent of the GDP in 2012. Rising costs and scarcity of manpower are driving mechanisation in agriculture, giving rise to a strong agricultural implements industry. Made up of a large chunk of unorganised players spread across India, the agricultural implements market is pegged at Rs 3,500 crore. It is connected directly to tractors, which clocked a sales of 633,656 units in FY2013-14, marking a 20 per cent year-on-year growth. A part of the automobile market with an equipment overlap, tractors enjoyed a good run last year when automobiles (except two-wheelers) and equipment battled a slowdown. Satnam Singh, Proprietor, Strongarm Hydraulics India, presents an idea of how important implements are proving to be, not only in agriculture but also in the earthmoving and construction equipment sector. He observes that implements like backhoe loader (and front-end loader with grabber) for use with tractors are gaining prominence since tractors are easier to come by than backhoe loaders. Based at Rupnagar near Chandigarh, Singh´s firm specialises in the manufacturing of hydraulic tractor trolleys, dozer blades, post-hole diggers and more. If the abundance of small and medium-scale manufacturers of agricultural implements is attributed to the states of Punjab and Haryana, it is because of their strong agricultural base.
SMEs at the helm In what could be described as an interesting SME cluster activity, at the Karnal Agricultural Implements cluster there are about 70 SMEs, which specialise in the manufacture of a wide variety of agricultural implements. In the 25-30 km radius are another 25 to 30 units engaged in the manufacture of similar implements. The products include cultivators, disc harrows, shrub masters, land levellers, bund formers, seed-cum-fertiliser drills, zero-tillage machines, straw reapers and thrashers. Also present at the Karnal Agricultural Implements cluster are manufacturers of implement parts such as harrow or plough disc, cultivator tynes, cultivator spring, and shovels. The annual turnover of the cluster is estimated to be over Rs 198 crore. The implements made at Karnal find their way to Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, some parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, and even the Northeast states. Says Singh, ´The implements we make, enjoy good demand from markets like Odisha and Haryana.´ Drawing attention to their non-traditional marketing efforts, which involve the use of YouTube to host demonstration videos of implements and their usability, Singh avers, ´My father´s enterprise supplied an implement (a backhoe loader) to Sonalika Tractors in the year 2000.´
Tractor manufacturers turn to agri implements The rise in demand for agricultural implements has drawn tractor manufacturers to it. In February 2014, TAFE announced that it would focus on a new business vertical and application business unit to make farm implements. With increasing mechanisation in agriculture, opportunities are opening up in tractor-drawn farm implements and other equipment. According to an industry analyst, agricultural implements is an area that is set to grow multi-fold to offer a market potential of over Rs 15,000 crore in the coming few years. While the range of agri implements, TAFE is focusing upon will cater to the domestic and export markets, many SMEs specialising in the manufacture of implements are already enjoying a good demand in the export markets of the Middle East, neighbouring countries and Africa. Stressing upon farm mechanisation helping in effective utilisation of inputs to increase the productivity of land and labour, an analyst opines that agricultural implements are set to redefine mechanisation in agriculture. Says Arvind Kumar, Managing Director & CEO, Lemken (India),´A tractor is of no use without implements.´ Drawing attention towards the fact that not all the tractors sold can be put to the use of transporting farm produce by attaching a trolley, Kumar opines that agricultural implements market growth is not exactly proportional to that of the tractor sales. ´At 5-6 per cent per annum, it clearly is not proportional,´ he adds. The Indian subsidiary of a 232-year old German company (with the seventh generation in charge), Lemken (India) specialises in pre-harvesting agricultural implements with an ability to deal with soil complexity. Aiming at a turnover of Rs 100 crore in the next five years according to Kumar, Lemken (India) started production in India in January 2013. It has invested in a modern manufacturing infrastructure at Buttibori near Nagpur.
Kumar´s expectation for a good growth comes from the fact that farmers will embrace mechanisation to earn better; to make farming a profitable venture. Stressing on the need to frame good policies rather than doling out subsidies and loan waivers, Kumar states that finance is hard to seek.
Need for easier finance A big hurdle in the way of growth of agricultural implements is the difficulty to secure finance. According to Kumar, financial institutions decline under the pretext that implements are not registered with the regional transport authority. This gives rise to a policy issue; the need for a proper policy to be in place. With a mechanical plough costing Rs 75,000 and a hydraulic plough costing between Rs 110,000 and 200,000, the need for finance is acute. The acknowledgement of agricultural implements in the 12th Five-Year Plan may be a welcome initiative in this regard. The need however is to educate the farmer of the advantages of agricultural implements and advise him on their use for a profitable farming experience. If the rising focus of tractor manufacturers in the pre-harvesting as well as post-harvesting segment is a good sign, the need is for a clear policy on farm mechanisation; a policy that will help to secure finance.
Avers SN Gaikwad, Marketing Manager, Popular Steel Works, ´We had a tie-up with ICICI Bank a few years back. However, it was not retained as it was not found to be lucrative.´ He adds that most buyers secure loan on the basis of their relation with a bank, depending on their land holding and other parameters. Drawing attention to how tractors have replaced traditional ways of farming, leading to a small band of farmers letting out their tractors with implements to others, Gaikwad feels that they have been experiencing good growth, averaging in the region of 10-15 per cent. A mechanical plough from Popular Steel Works costs Rs 60,000-70,000 according to Gaikwad.
Better than others Out of the wide variety of agricultural implements, there are some implements that farmers and users seem to prefer over others. If ploughs form part of the traditional implements that are essential, there are those who seek implements that enable tractors to perform the task of a backhoe or a harvester, albeit at 50 per cent of the cost and at 50 per cent of the efficiency. At the root of the proposition is a simple fact, that tractors are easier to come by; and cost less than half of what a backhoe or a harvester would. Interestingly, some implements which are in demand over others, have been clocking better growth. An example is the rotavator. Consider the Farmking rotavator by Jaipur-based Shri Kanhaiyalal Ramratan Krishi Yantra Laghu Udyog. It produces a fine seed bed with one or two passes before and after rain. Suitable for the removal of stubble sugarcane, wheat, banana, and cotton, it retains soil moisture and increases soil porosity and aeration, which enhance germination and growth of crops. Saving in fuel expenses is claimed to be to the tune of 15-30 per cent, loosening and aerating soil up to depth of 125-1,500 mm. The rotavators offered by Malerkotla-based Dashmesh Mechanical Works are ideal for removing stubbles of sugarcane, cotton, banana, jowar, maize, and roots of various other crops. The company sells 700 straw reapers and 1,000 rotavators (rotary tillers) per annum.
Pre-harvesting farm implements