Tractor sales, regarded as a proxy for business confidence in the agriculture sector, fell again in February. Tractor sales in February were 7.7% lower than a year earlier, at 675 units, the South African Agricultural Machinery Association (Saama) said on Tuesday. That follows a 17.6% decline in January, and an 11.3% fall for full-year 2016 to 5,855 units, Saama data show. Tractor sales were hurt in 2016 due to uncertainty about crop yields and exchange rates, as it was unclear whether the global weather pattern had transitioned from the dry el Nino cycle to the wet la Nina cycle. Issues around land restitution issues and farm workers’ shares in farms added to the uncertain conditions for farmers. In 2017, maize farmers now face a new pest: fall armyworm, which the Agricultural Research Council’s Plant Protection Research Institute has confirmed is affecting local farms. "The current lower levels of sales reflect a high degree of caution in the market," Saama said. "The current mark...

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