Tractor sales leapt 27.8% year on year in December to 349 units, but for the whole of 2016 sales fell 11.3% to 5,855 units, says the South African Agricultural Machinery Association (Saama).

Tractor sales were hit in 2016 by uncertainty on crop yields and exchange rates, also land restitution, farm-worker shares in farms and whether the dry El Niño global cycle had yielded to a wet La Niña cycle.

Saama said: "General summer rains have fallen over most of the country now. Most farmers, even in the west which was dry for a time, have completed their planting. Standing crops are looking good and market sentiment is positive.

"What is required now is follow-up rains through to the end of February for the planted crops to realise their full yield potential."

Industry expectations for 2017 are for tractor sales to at least match those of 2016.

The US agriculture department estimated SA’s 2016-17 maize crop would be about 60% more than that of 2015-16 "as rainfall returned to a more normal pattern".

"Local corn (maize) prices are expected to still trade at import parity price levels in the near future, giving farmers enough initiative to plant more fields to corn. In addition widespread rain has fallen in the corn producing areas of the country the past week, enabling farmers on the eastern side to start planting corn within the optimum planting window," the department said.

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