Recent figures from the agricultural machinery sector are a stark reminder of how drought affects business beyond the farm gate.
The Tractor and Machinery Association has predicted 2019 tractor sales will close below 11,000 units, chalking up the continued decline to drought across eastern states, while its annual dealer sentiment survey shows the industry has little optimism for 2020.
TMA executive director Gary Northover said November's national tractor sales were back 16 per cent on last year, and 11pc down on year to date.
"The full year picture is now down to a forecast of less than 11,000 tractors and the promise of the market holding at a reasonable level in 2020 is now diminishing," he said.
"A forecast in the range of 9,000 tractors is predicted which is well down on the recent peak years of 12,000 plus sales.
The relative strength in Western Australia is being more than offset by the impact of the eastern states drought and it will take some year's yet for this market to fully recover
"Falls continued in all size categories in all states with the dismal picture in NSW at the forefront suffering the greatest declines."
Mr Northover said NSW figures dropped 28pc in November, to close 20pc behind last year, while Queensland slipped another 19pc over the month to end 8pc behind for the year.
"Western Australia, which until recent times had been reporting sales increases, dropped a whopping 35pc for the month and is now just 1pc ahead of last year," he said.
"South Australian sales continue to struggle, down 6pc in November and now 25pc behind last year."
Mr Northover said Victorian sales activity was reasonably strong, maintaining sales in line with 2018.
"The horticultural and wine growing markets appear to be travelling well in the southern states and this is felt to be a big part of Victoria's activity," he said.
Mr Northover said Tasmania and the Northern Territory remained in line with last year.
"Tasmanian sales dipped but remain 4pc ahead year to day and sales in the Northern Territory are sitting in line with last year."
Mr Northover said overall November sales were disappointing across power sectors, however the tractors above 150 kilowatts (200 horsepower) had a particularly tough month, back 22pc to finish 6 percent behind year to date.
"The 75 to 150kW (100 to 200hp )steadied, in line for the month remaining 11pc behind last year, while the 30 to 75kW (40 to 100hp) range was also down 19pc now sitting 13pc behind last year.
"The under 30kW (40hp) range, struggled, down 27pc in November remaining 10pc behind on a yearly basis."
Mr Northover said header sales continued to remain 20pc behind last year, with very little being reported in the way of forward orders.
"The relative strength in Western Australia is being more than offset by the impact of the eastern states drought and it will take some year's yet for this market to fully recover," he said.
Mr Northover said while demand for hay equipment had been strong throughout 2019, sales were tapering off.
Looking forward to 2020, Mr Northover said the TMA's quarterly dealer business sentiment survey reflected the widespread challenges faced by dealers across the country.
"Over 50pc of dealers expect turnover to decline, 41pc of dealers expect turnover to remain unchanged," he said.
"Sales of new equipment is expected to remain unchanged with stocks of new machinery held on dealers floors considered to be average.
"Used equipment stocks are also considered to be at average levels for both tractors and combine harvesters whereas for balers, hay equipment, self-propelled sprayers and Implements inventory levels are considered to be low.
"Parts inventory levels are trending higher but still below the high levels recorded in September 2018."
While 2019 has seen further job losses, reduced shifts and closures across machinery dealers in drought affected states, Mr Northover said the quarterly survey indicated employment levels may be stabilising.
"Despite tougher trading conditions there has been an increase in the number of dealers who see no reason to change their employment levels," he said.
Mr Northover said the TMA had set the date for its annual conference, to be held in Melbourne on Tuesday July 21st, and the full program details would be shared in coming months.