THE farm machinery industry must lift its profile and stamp its mark in the agribusiness sector if it is to meet the challenges of the future, according to Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA) executive director Richard Lewis.
Addressing the TMA conference in Melbourne, Mr Lewis said for too long the industry had been a forgotten player in the agribusiness sector and needed to reclaim its rightful position.
“While I think we have a much clearer direction of where we want to be than we had over the last few years, there is a lot of noise in the agricultural space and a lot of different stake holders,” he said.
“The frustration for us is our industry isn’t even considered a part of agriculture - we are considered manufacturing or a part of general commerce.
“As much as we are bolted to the agricultural space we are not considered in it, so we really have to get our message out to the world that we are a good industry and we are part of the agricultural space.”
Mr Lewis said if the machinery industry was to expand and attract new people it had to build its profile, much in the way the mining industry had done.
“The mining industry has done a really good job of letting the world know how their industry works……we have to do the same thing,” he said.
“Our big challenge is people. We haven’t got enough people coming through the industry. We don’t do a good enough job of selling our industry as a career path.
“I think most people think of the Tractor and Machinery Association as either mechanics or salesmen, but it is a broad, vast industry that involves cutting edge technologies.”
Mr Lewis said all segments of the machinery industry needed to pull together and join with the rest of agriculture to present a united voice.
“If you think about how our distribution model works, we are importers, distributors and dealers – that links into a lot of other companies like some of the larger agricultural companies,” he said.
“Once we get a nice clear message we can involve a few other stakeholders in the play, then bring along the National Farmers Federation and the government.
“At the moment it is really fragmented and the message coming out of Canberra is they only want to speak to one of us, that we need to get the message straight and let them know what the issues are.”
Mr Lewis said the industry wasn’t looking for financial assistance from the government nor a return to a protectionist system, but if it was to attract new investment it had to get the message across that it was a vital, viable industry.
“Most of our businesses are used to tough economic conditions through droughts and floods, so the business management side of things is under control,” he said.
“The problem is attracting people and investment. There is private equity and investment out there but none of it is coming into our businesses. We have to get that in there.”