• Friday, Oct 18, 2019
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French manufacturers ready to customize farm machinery to suit needs of smallholders

  • Published at 01:39 am September 24th, 2019
French machinery

Farm machinery delegates from France visit Bangladesh to explore market; with yearly export proceeds of €3 billion, France is fifth largest farm machinery exporting country in the world

With Bangladesh projected to get its current farm labour force halved by 2030, manufacturers of some of the best quality European farm machineries have shown renewed interest in exploring market here.    

A delegation from France’s leading farm machinery manufacturers association – Axema – visited the country in the middle of this month and proposed to the local importers smaller equipment, which comply with the needs of small and marginal farmers in Bangladesh. 

In return, the importers raised concern over higher prices of European agricultural machineries comparing to the prices of the ones now being imported mostly from China. They, however, welcomed the French manufacturers’ initiative and urged them for arranging farm machinery demonstration in Bangladesh.   

Bangladesh’s farm sector contributes nearly one-sixth of the total national GDP and employs two-fifth of the total workforce. But there appears a worrying trend of people leaving farming profession and pursuing non-farm economic activities.

A recent study on “Mechanization for Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in SAARC Region” and the UN FAO predicted that percentage of labour force employed in on-farm agricultural activities would reduce from 43% to 36% by next year and to 20% by 2030 — posing a great challenge to Bangladesh agriculture to produce more grains for increasing population.

Axema comprises 240 manufacturers of tractors and agricultural machines in France. It represents 90 percent of the agricultural equipment industry in France. These companies operate throughout France, with areas of concentration in the major cereal and dairy farming centres. 

Valérie Lescaut, International Department Manager of Axema, led the delegation’s recent visit to Bangladesh and India. 

During her brief stay in Dhaka, Valérie Lescaut told this correspondent that “It is our first time in Bangladesh. The purpose of our trip is to explore the market and to understand how it works and to identify opportunities of business.”

“We have met the main importers of farm machinery particularly the ones that import brand from Europe. We have also visited a horticultural farm and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (Bari) in Bangladesh,” said Valérie.

She told Dhaka Tribune that the French manufacturers of farm machinery proposed large machines but also smaller equipment that comply with the needs of small farmers. “These are indeed more expensive than Chinese equipment but these are more durable and reliable. We think that Bangladesh will shift fast to high value crops that will require effective machinery with high productivity.”

Asked whether Bangladeshi farmers would be able to afford the price of such farm tools, the Axema delegation leader said, “Our target is not very small farmers that use hand tools or cultivate for their own consumption, rather our target is the commercial farmers who sell their produce to the processing industry or for export.”

Founded in 2013, Axema is the merger of three manufacturers and importers associations in France. This merger arose from the desire for business in the agricultural equipment sector to have a single, united and useful representation in a continually changing economic and political environment.

Axema quickly established itself as the only benchmark in the agricultural equipment industry sector. Its expertise in technical, regulatory and economic areas, as well as international and training matters, has made it a key player regularly approached by professional organizations and various authorities in Europe and worldwide.

The French agricultural machinery industry, which includes several manufacturers who are global or European leaders in their field, offer a wide range of safe, well-designed equipment that is innovative, environmentally friendly and competitively priced. 

The farm implements include, among others, tractors, agricultural tyres and components, plowing, sowing and planting machinery, crop protection and irrigation equipment, greenhouses and crop shelters, harvesting and haymaking equipment, mobile lifting and handling equipment, animal husbandry equipment, grain handling and storage, sorting and handling of fruits and vegetables, winegrowing and winemaking equipment and lawn maintenance equipment. 

With yearly export proceeds of €3 billion, France is the fifth largest farm machinery exporting country worldwide behind Germany, the United States, China and Italy. As much as 55 percent of the French farm machinery production is exported to meet the needs of farmers in five continents.

France is second largest European market for new equipment sales worth €5.1 billion and third largest farm machinery producing country in Europe.

Farmers in Bangladesh employ power tillers and tractors for land preparations in over 90% of the farmlands. Agricultural implements are in use in almost cent percent cases for crop protection and post-harvest milling.

But when it comes to seed sowing, transplanting and harvesting crops – farm mechanization appears to be a forgotten chapter. Only 1% of seeding and just 2% of harvesting are done by machines and the rest is done manually.

And with the farm labourers increasingly becoming expensive to hire, the rice farmers in the last Boro season had hard time harvesting the ripened paddies from their fields.

Against this backdrop, the government has decided to go for a big-time farm mechanization program after holding a series of meetings on this over the past two months.

$1.2bn agro machinery market in Bangladesh

Agricultural machinery sub-sector in Bangladesh is still considered as a non-formal one and no significant efforts have been made so far to enhance its capacity and linkages to internal and external markets.

Beyond import of tractors, power tillers, diesel engines, spare parts from abroad (mostly from China, India, and South Korea) there are about 70 foundries, 2,000 agricultural machinery and spare parts manufacturing workshops, and about 20,000 repair and maintenance workshops engaged in production and servicing of agricultural machines and spare parts.

According to a report presented last year by Bangladesh Agricultural University Prof Monjurul Alam, the agro machinery market reached $1.2 billion in Bangladesh and local manufacturers have a 32% share in it.

It said local manufacturers are dominating the spare parts market with more than 60% of the share.

The study showed tillage, irrigation, threshing, weeding and pesticide applications have been mechanized by 90%, 63%, 80% and 70%, respectively.