By Brian Moseti
The high price of tractors and other farming equipment has made African farming the least mechanised in the world, but Kenyan farmers are now buying imported second-hand tractors and farm equipment at two-thirds of the price of new equipment.
According to the Malabo Montpellier Panel in a report titled Mechanised – Transforming Africa’s Agriculture Value Chains, Africa has the world’s largest share of unused arable land, accounting for 60 per cent of the world total, and the most favourable climate for farming, yet it remains a net importer of food as its lack of mechanisation hinders the continent in using its tillable land.
“Africa is the region with the least mechanised agricultural system in the world… African farmers have ten times fewer mechanised tools per farm area than farmers in other developing regions,” noted the 2018 report, citing affordability as the main reason for the shortfall.
This is more evident in Kenya than elsewhere in East Africa as a result of Kenya’s taxes on farm machinery and equipment. As a result, a John Deere tractor, for example, is 25 per cent cheaper in Uganda, where taxes have been removed from farm equipment.
However, Kenyan farmers who wish to mechanise are now enjoying an increasing range of options to buy second-hand machinery and equipment imported from Europe and Asia at a fraction of the cost of new equipment.
James Chelimo, an auto dealer in Nakuru, who specialises in importing pre-owned tractors and farm machinery, sells a New Holland TT55 4WD at Sh1.3m, which is more than Sh500,000 cheaper than buying a new version of the same model from CMC Kenya.
“Our offer is a lot better because the tractor also comes with a two-disc plough valued at around Sh200,000, a complete tool box, three free services and a 24-month warranty,” said Chelimo.
Ebrahim Millah, another farm machinery dealer and proprietor of Bonjour Auto in Ngong, Kajiado County says the performance of pre-owned tractors is just as good as new ones, “provided you buy one that has a proper service history, and you commit to its proper maintenance using genuine parts whenever required.”
Janet Mukami, who runs a farm-tilling service for wheat farmers in Narok using several pre-owned tractors, agrees with Millah, noting that in her line of business it makes sense to go for lower-cost used equipment as opposed to new ones.
“The tractor hire service takes long before it pays for the cost of the tractor, and it helps if the initial cost is not as high. For me, it makes business sense for me to buy good second-hand tractors and other machinery like combine harvesters, which sometimes cost up to Sh2m less than new ones,” she said.
So, as a first-time tractor buyer, what should you be looking for?
Millah recommends proper research guided by one’s needs and financial capacity. “A farmer who has 100 acres of land and another who has five acres will require different sizes of tractors in terms of horsepower. A 40hp Massey Ferguson 1260, for instance, would be great for a small farmer as it is inexpensive and would do most of the work required of it. In comparison, a large-scale farmer, or one in the tractor hire business, might need an MF6475 which is costlier but hardier,” he said.
Other things to check include the engine oil, which will tell you if the tractor has been serviced recently and the quality of the engine. “Any glittery items in the oil, and things that look like metal filings will tell you that the tractor has an engine problem,” said Millah, adding that it is important to also check on the quality of the tyres on the tractor.
“Tractor tyres are really expensive, so it is advisable to confirm that the tyres on the equipment you want to buy are in good condition,” said Millah.
Millah also recommends the guidance of a trusted tractor mechanic, who can test the performance of the tractor’s hydraulic system, throttle response, towing capacity, power take-off (PTO) and to conduct a general assessment of the quality of the engine to check if any repairs and overhauls have been done.
“As a ground rule, oil and coolant leakages are red flags as they indicate seal, gasket or radiator problems. Additionally, it is important to check the steering wheel for play, with excessive play indicating steering system problems, which can be really expensive to fix,” he said.
Bonjour Auto Limited, Ngong: 0739064226
Sobea Farm machinery and Equipment, Nakuru: 0722608978
Ebay Tractors, Eldoret/Mombasa/Nairobi: 0790066000