Slovenia, a land of tractors
One in 17 Slovenians owns a tractor, which ranks the country among leaders in Europe in per capita tractor ownership. Almost 120,000 tractors were registered at the end of 2022, up to 15,000 more are estimated to be unregistered.
Last year 1,365 new tractors were registered, slightly fewer than the year before but 249 more than in 2020.
"The figures only include proper tractors, not four-wheelers, which can now be registered as tractors," Marjan Dolenšek of the Slovenian Forestry Institute has told the STA.
New Holland the most popular brand
New Holland has been the most popular brand for some years now, but it also saw the most substantial drop in sales last year. Solis ranks second and John Deere third among the top selling brands.
Average engine power last year was 68.5 kilowatts, 4.9 kW more than the year before in what Dolinšek described as the "biggest increase in power in a year and the highest average engine power yet".
Prices of tractors vary enormously, from €20,000 for the cheapest to €300,000 and more for the most expensive and powerful ones. Five 250 kW-plus tractors were sold last year, two more than in 2021.
According to Dolenšek, sales have been stable over the past decade at an average of 1,350 tractors sold a year.
Rolling stock getting old
A recent data analysis puts Slovenia in the top third of European countries by tractor sales per million of the population and per 100,000 hectares of farmland. The country is at the tail end when it comes to sales per thousand farms.
"This is one more proof how small our farms are, but also that many no longer invest in tractors and other farming and forestry machinery," Dolenšek said.
"Tractors registered in Slovenia are almost 22 years old on average, only 5% are less than five years old and 18% are less than 12 years old."
The farming machinery consultant says that out of 68,000 farms in Slovenia only 20,000 still invest in farming and forestry machinery, structures and such.
"These are farms that also sell agricultural products. These farms mostly have modern equipment and they cover most of their investments from their own production," he said.
One reason for the large number of tractors is that few of those who buy a new tractor will sell the old ones because of their low market value. They also come handy on farm at times.
150 accidents a year
Apart from almost 120,000 tractors that Infrastructure Ministry data shows were registered at the end of 2022, there are an estimated further 15,000 which are not registered.
Even if a tractor is not used on roads it has to be registered, but it has to have a cabin or a safety frame at any rate, although many do not comply.
Data from the Traffic Safety Agency shows there are some 150 traffic accidents involving a tractor every year, most in settled areas.
In 757 such accidents between 2018 and the end of 2022, nine tractor drivers were killed, 19 were gravely injured and 85 suffered light injuries. Dolenšek says most deaths in recent years have been due to failure to use a seat belt.
Subsidies available, but hard to get
Eligible farmers can get subsidies to buy tractors, which can range anywhere from 30% to 70% or more for young farmers in alpine regions, but Dolenšek says subsides are hard to get.
The Agriculture Ministry allocated a total of €3.26 million subsidies for 88 tractors last year, which compares to €731,000 for 20 tractors in 2021.
According to Dolenšek, only 13.8% of new tractors bought were subsidised under the 2007-2013 rural development programme. He does not expect the proportion to change much in the new period.