Letters: European equipment imports happen for a reason

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Dear editor,

I have read the story in Farmtario quoting Bev Leavitt, head of CEEDA, Canada East Equipment Dealers Association, crying wolf about farmers buying agricultural machinery from Europe.

Maybe it would be good to consider the reasons why this is happening.

First of all, this is far from being a common practice. Between the currency exchange, the amount of papers you have to fill in and the risk of buying a piece of equipment you have only seen on a computer screen, it isn’t worth it. But for some farmers who have some knowledge of all this, yes there are some bargains.

This market, whatever you want to call it, grey, white or black, has existed for construction equipment for more than 25 years, and I have never heard Caterpillar or Hitachi dealers complaining about it. That’s because this is marginal and absolutely legal.

How many people buy a used car or truck in the United States?

So why? For years, agricultural equipment dealers have had a captive market from farmers who trusted them. These farmers paid their bills without asking questions and bought the same brand of equipment because the dealer was close to their farms.

But this changed with the younger generation. They went to school longer and learned trades that were not accessible to their fathers. And they started to ask questions, which is good, and they wanted to have answers, which is even better, and besides that, they had internet that gave them the possibility to see and learn many other things just with a click.

Unfortunately, most of the dealers didn’t want to wake up, and thought relationships with the farmers wouldn’t change.

So now, realizing they were wrong, they are trying to scare off the farmers by telling them they are taking big risks for buying equipment overseas. What risks?

Warranty: There is none because most of this equipment, especially the big ones are used machines anyway.

Not fixing it: Well some dealers will do it without any problem, the ones who prioritize service before profit; there are still some. There are enough independent technicians to take care of that. Besides, many farmers are doing simple mechanical tasks themselves.

It is not a rarity today to see a farmer overhaul an engine or a transmission by himself, not because he really wants or has the time to do it, but because this kind of job done by a dealer has almost become unaffordable. The other reasons are dealer mechanic’s lack of knowledge. Many of them don’t even know how to use a multimeter properly, but one cannot blame them, it’s just lack of training. A piece of paper with your name on it will never make you a good tradesman, experience and training will.

Safety and lighting: This is just risible. For decades in Western Europe, every piece of agricultural equipment being on roadway must have, and this is mandatory, the same lighting and axles equipped with brakes as a car or a truck.

50 km/hr. road speed: Every tractor brand in North America today builds at least one model with 50 km/hr. road speed. John Deere even makes tractors with air brake connectors for trailers, the same as European brands do. So what, just rhetoric?

As many consumers in Canada, farmers today have to take into account costs toward revenues, and for several years, for many farmers, costs are escalating and revenues are shrinking. Buying equipment overseas for a handful of them is just tipping the balance sheet in favour of revenues, a kind of self defence.

Why not talk about parts? What about the very low inventory inside dealerships today, not mentioning the very comfortable profit margin they have on them? It is not uncommon to wait for days, even weeks for parts. And I am talking about ordinary parts. Why is it possible to buy a tractor hydraulic pump overseas one-third cheaper than in Ontario?

European dealerships have much more overhead costs than their Ontario counterparts. And the consolidation that we have seen for years of several dealerships into one hand will certainly not help.

Yes, Ontario dealers hire people and pay taxes, but so do the farmers, and there are many more farmers than dealers.

So if there is a problem, this is not on the farmers’ side. Do not blame the farmers for this situation, just blame yourself.

G. Sainton, Fournier, Ont.

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