Agriculture tractor. Picture: THINKSTOCK
Agriculture tractor. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Tractor sales rose by 8.7% to 6,362 units in 2017 after an 11.3% fall in 2016, according to the South African Agricultural Machinery Association (Saama).

The 2017 annual total was boosted by a late surge as December sales increased by 19.8% year on year following a 24.9% jump in November.

"The better than average December tractor sales indicate that the market is still positive. This, despite the late and patchy rains, particularly in the western and north-western parts of the summer-cropping regions. This lateness of the rains may mean that some farmers will have changed to planting sunflower instead of maize.

"Sales prospects for the next few months will be largely dependent on weather conditions. Industry forecasts for the 2018 calendar year are that tractor sales should be at similar levels to those of 2017," the industry body said.

The October 2017 intentions to plant survey showed a large switch from white maize to soybeans in the more arid western parts of the country.

Lichtenburg in the North West had only 46mm of rain in December 2017, while the so-called maize capital, Bothaville in the Free State, received 101mm and Ermelo in Mpumalanga had 183mm.

A follow-up intentions to plant survey will be released on January 30.