Following a “drastic” slowdown in sales, rentals and aftermarket support in the agriculture sector during the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa, equipment supplier Goscor Earthmoving (GEM) national sales manager Kevin Purcell expects that business will either return to normal in the sector once the crisis dissipates, or there will be an acceleration for the remainder of the year to make up for lost time.
He says many businesses in the agriculture sector are reluctant to release cash-on-hand to buy new equipment, since wage and salary payment continuation has been prioritised because of the uncertainty surrounding the lockdown.
Moreover, South Africa’s recent downgrade by investor services firm Moody’s to junk status poses an additional challenge for all sectors.
“Nevertheless, activity in the agriculture sector continued throughout the lockdown, but it is not like it was at the start of the year,” says Purcell.
He notes that there were high hopes for a record year, particularly in the Western Cape, as water restrictions were lifted following much-needed rainfall.
Moreover, export activity was on the rise, with farmers reporting good crop harvests at the end of last year. Many farmers were also sowing more hectares at the start of the year. However, Purcell says that owing to port, rail and road transport capacity limitations during the lockdown period, business slowed significantly.
Despite these challenges, the agriculture sector remains a focal point in terms of GEM’s growth strategy, and the company expects the sector to return to form in the coming months once the Covid-19 crisis has abated.
During the lockdown, GEM continued to focus on capitalising on the agriculture sector, while the construction sector was rendered “dead in the water” for that period, Purcell tells Engineering News. He adds that ongoing operations at recycling plants also aided in the company’s revenue stream.
“Despite the setbacks caused by Covid-19, which affected a number of other industries much more severely, we believe that the agriculture sector will continue to be fairly stable, with predictable cycles based on seasonal harvests.”
Moreover, Purcell says GEM aims to add more specialised agricultural machinery to its stable over the next few years: “We continue to analyse the sector to understand the kinds of technologies available globally. We need to remain proactive in educating the sector about what we can supply.”
GEM is focusing on supplying and supporting the sector with the SY210 excavator from original-equipment manufacturer SANY, as well as the B730 tractor loader backhoe and skidsteer loaders from original-equipment manufacturer Bobcat Equipment South Africa.
Purcell notes that, while the SY210 is useful in mining and construction applications, it also has many applications in agriculture.
“Tractor loader backhoes are used widely in the agriculture sector, and the B730 will assist in penetrating the agricultural sector, aiding in gaining market share,” he says, adding that the Bobcat skidsteers are the company’s most successful product in the agriculture sector historically.
“A full range of genuine Bobcat attachments can convert these machines into flexible workhorses, with more than a dozen models to choose from, depending on customer requirements,” he states.
The B730 tractor loader backhoe is ideal for digging, trenching, breaking and even materials handling. It includes a 100 hp turbocharged engine, a standardised powershift transmission, 18 inch front tyres, two-wheel steering and a high breakout force thanks to double loader bucket cylinders. Its bolt-type cylinder head design also reduces maintenance costs.
The SANY SY210 is a hydraulic excavator featuring reliable, high-quality components and an engine made by engine manufacturer Cummins. Its high operating efficiency results in a 10% reduction in fuel consumption.
Purcell points out that one of the benefits offered by the GEM brand is low fuel consumption for improved efficiency, together with aftermarket support, which translates into a competitive total cost of ownership.