Looking back over 2016, Jan Bednar
In 2016, I travelled a lot, just like in any other year, but unlike the two previous years that I mostly spent in Western Europe, I travelled to Eastern Europe in 2106. I spent 14 days in Romania and Bulgaria. I was in Ukraine for two weeks and I visited Russia three times during the year.
Have the markets there changed since you last visited those countries?
Definitely. While the sale of agricultural technology in Western Europe has been stagnating, the markets in the east represent an important growth potential for us. The farmers from those countries, including Ukraine, have the resources and willingness to invest in new technologies, which did not used to be very common. The aim of my visits was to better understand their needs and the possibilities of seedbed preparation and sowing in those regions. The information and experience I have gained will be projected into the design of our machines in the coming years.
What was 2016 like for BEDNAR FMT?
Very hard! While the situation in most markets looked quite positive at the beginning of 2016, it got significantly worse during the year. France suffered from a wet harvest so local farmers harvested less than usual and what they harvested was not always in the required quality. The price of milk plunged in Central Europe, including Germany. The situation was even worse in Czechia, Poland and Slovakia due to subsidies that were announced but not confirmed. And when they were confirmed, most businesses did not reach the point limit. The market stagnated, at least for BEDNAR. However, in spite of the rapid decline at the end of 2016, this year has brought record-breaking receipts in the history of the Company with a slight increase when compared with 2015.
Do you think we can expect some improvements in 2017?
We have been surprised with the number of received orders. However, a large amount of the orders are from Eastern Europe and outside Europe. We are not expecting the market in Central and Western Europe to take off quickly. That could happen in 2018, though.
How important are overseas markets for BEDNAR?
Their significance is rapidly increasing, they are huge agrarian regions that used to be completely unattainable for our Company at the beginning. In 2016, we exported a large amount of machines into Australia and Africa and we also delivered our first machines to Canada. That is a huge success since we are a company with quite a short history from a small central European country.
What novelties are you preparing for 2017?
The greatest novelty is definitely the second generation of the Omega seed drills equipped with innovated software. The new Omega will be presented for the first time at Sima in Paris. In 2016, we also spent a lot of time working on the details of our current products so that they are simpler and more user-friendly for the operators. The modifications were already projected in the serial production in autumn 2016. In the next year, we will test several prototypes and if they work well, they will be sold in 2018.
Your Company put a lot of effort into the research and development of machines for sectional fertilisation; how is the project coming along and what future does it have?
The project is still in progress. We have been testing this type of fertiliser placement for individual crops for four years. It appears that we are on the right path. Not only because our competitors are trying to manufacture machines similar to our Ferti-Boxes, but also thanks to the fact that large businesses that do not have their own barnyard manure have switched to this technology based on the testing, i.e. deep cultivation with fertilisation. I can name Donau Farm Kalná (15,000ha) Terraland TO 6000 + Ferti Box FB 3000, Oragro (9,000ha) Fenix FO 6000 + Ferti Box FB 3000, Gamota (Levice Centre approx. 4,000ha) Terraland TO 6000 + Ferti-Box FB 3000. At present, I am negotiating the transition to sectional fertilisation with several other farms in Central Europe. The trials have shown that there is a significant increase in the crops, especially of sugar beet and corn.
Another new segment for Bednar are the inter-row cultivators; are you planning to expand the offer of those machines as well?
Inter-row cultivators are very important for agricultural technology for precise sowing. Our field tests show how important such cultivators are, especially thanks to the improvement of access of the roots to air. The measures regulating the application of glyphosates that are on the way will also increase the need for such cultivators. Those are the main reasons why we expanded our production programme by those machines. The model portfolio for 2017 will be expanded by the 24-row cultivator for sugar beet and the 12-row universal cultivator designed mainly for corn and sunflower.
Is BEDNAR FMT considering expanding its product portfolio?
We are not thinking about expanding our product categories. We would like to fully focus on what we do at the moment.