Tractor volume growth seen halving to 4-6% in fiscal 2024, states CRISIL Ratings

The softening prices of inputs such as steel and pig iron will provide a 100-200 basis points (bps) respite to the operating margin of tractor makers.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 21 Mar 2023 Views icon3112 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

Domestic tractor sales volume growth is seen halving to 4-6 percent in fiscal 2024, from a high base, created by a compound average growth rate of 10 percent since fiscal 2020 on the back of successive normal monsoons, as per CRISIL Ratings.

However, softening prices of inputs such as steel and pig iron will provide a 100-200 basis points (bps) respite to the operating margin of tractor makers. Further, net cash-positive balance sheets will continue to support strong credit profiles.

In fiscal 2023, tractor sales volume will hit a record as farm sentiment remains healthy after another good monsoon —the key driver of farm incomes — and an increase in Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the 2022-23 market season.

Drivers of Growth

Naveen Vaidyanathan, Director, CRISIL Ratings states, “Riding on a high base, tractor volume growth next fiscal will be driven by both, the farm and commercial segments. The 5 percent increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat for the ongoing rabi crop — the highest in the last four fiscals — will improve farm incomes, while the government’s infrastructure push and higher construction activity will drive commercial demand.”

Replacement demand, which accounts for around 60 percent of volume, will also support tractor volume. Tractors typically have a lifecycle of 6-8 years. Record sales in fiscals 2017 and 2018 foretell healthy replacement demand next fiscal.

El Nino to play spoil sport? 

There are downside risks to this expectation. Unusually high temperatures followed by unseasonal rainfall in parts of northern and central India in the past month have raised concerns about a weaker Rabi harvest this year.

Weather agencies have also flagged the rising probability of an El Niño event in July-August this year, which could lead to below-normal rainfall. While above-average reservoir levels would provide some respite, uncertainties could persist.

The El Niño effect had resulted in a shortfall in monsoon during fiscal 2015 and 2016, impacting farm incomes and leading to tractor volume declines of 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

While a clearer picture of the monsoon will emerge in the coming months, easing commodity prices should provide respite on the profitability front.

Impact of input prices 

Nitin Bansal, Associate Director, CRISIL Ratings states, “High input prices had led to operating margin falling for the last two fiscals from a decadal high of around 22 percent in fiscal 2021 to around 15 percent in fiscal 2023, despite successive price hikes. However, prices of steel and pig iron, which together account for roughly 90 percent of the total raw material cost of tractors, have eased in the past few months and may decline by 6-12 percent next fiscal, driven by softer coal prices. This should help improve operating margin to 16-17 percent.”

Apart from improving profitability, robust balance sheets (with low gearing of 0.3 times) and limited capital expenditure, given the capacity utilisation of roughly 76 percent, it will support the credit profiles of tractor makers. 

The progression of monsoon and the risk of El Niño and its consequent impact on farm income will bear watching.



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