“There’s no question that the recent run in commodity prices, driven by the events in ... eastern Europe, has supported the prospect for crop-farmer income,” said Marie Ziegler, Deere’s head of investor relations. “Overall, for the farm sector it would appear to be very positive as you look into 2011.”
The manufacturer raised its crop price estimates for next year: to $3.90 a bushel for corn from its previous forecast of $3.60; $5.25 for a bushel of wheat from $4.75; and $9.25 for a bushel of soyabeans from its prior prediction of $8.75.
Ms Ziegler noted, however, that rising crop prices had increased feed costs for livestock farmers, who she said accounted for about half the European farm economy. Coupled with the uncertain economic recovery, that could act as a drag on growth in the agricultural sector next year.
She made her comments as Deere reported quarterly profits well ahead of Wall Street’s expectations, citing strengthening demand for big farm machinery in the Americas.
The company said its net profit was $617m, or $1.44 per share, in its fiscal third quarter to the end of July, up from $420m, or 99 cents per share, in the same period last year, beating analysts’ average forecasts of $1.22 per share. Net equipment sales were $6.2bn in the quarter, up from $5.3bn last year.
Deere struck a bullish note on the farm economy in the Americas, saying it expected growth of 5-10 per cent in North America for its full fiscal year and 25-30 per cent in Brazil and Argentina. The company expects equipment sales to rise 32 per cent in the current quarter compared with the same period last year.
Demand for farm equipment is partly driven by a rush by farmers to avoid what they expect to be higher prices for new tractors from next year, when the US government will raise carbon emission standards on such vehicles.
However, a main source of US agricultural equipment demand is expected to be increased farm receipts as a result of soaring prices for wheat and other crops, resulting from supply shortages around the world. Wheat has spiked because of severe drought in Russia, which Deere said would hit its sales in eastern Europe.
Overall, the company said farm equipment sales in Europe could fall in the current quarter by as much as one-fifth from last year because of weakness in livestock and dairy farming.