Relaxed EU borders see Zetor tractor sales rise
The Czech Republic's most renowned tractor manufacturer Zetor - which used to have assembly plants in Asia and North America - is currently experiencing a new boom in sales. With the Czech Republic now in the EU, the recently privatised company hopes to regain its status as the region's biggest and most respected tractor producer.
Zetor, a Brno-based company, was established in 1946. Its most prosperous years were in communist Czechoslovakia, when production reached some 20,000 tractors a year, exported to 80 countries around the world, with over one million tractors produced and sold. Zetor even had assembly plants in India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Mexico - countries which needed tractors that were simple but would last. Vojtech Panik is Zetor's executive director:
"I would say the Zetor tractor is traditionally a good tractor that lasts long-term. It is not so much an electronic tractor and it is therefore easily operated. We produce our own engine and gear box, which means that from a technical point of view it is not overburdened with electronics. That is why it is easy to operate and repair and the quality is good so you can still find many old Zetor tractors still working around the world."
However, after the Velvet Revolution led to the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989, the state-owned manufacturer drastically reduced production and stopped completely in 2000. It was privatised in 2002 and bought by the Slovak company HTC Holding, which is gradually picking up production:
"This year we have produced and sold some 5,400 tractors. Next year, our target is to sell close to six thousand. Basically, 95 percent of production is for export. The main country is Poland, to which we send almost fifty percent of our products. Then comes North America, to which we ship around 500 tractors a year, and that is followed by countries like the UK and Ireland, Hungary, and the local market, as well as Slovakia."
Since the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia joined the EU in May, Zetor has experienced a significant rise in sales. In neighbouring Poland, Zetor has sold almost nine percent more tractors than in previous years. Vojtech Panik again:
"After joining the EU, everything has been much easier because there are almost no borders and we do not have to deal with things like customs clearance, which we had to provide in the past. And another advantage is that there are EU restructuring funds for the agriculture sector. In Poland, for example, we had about 2,200 sales this year, and we have a market share of about 35 percent in Poland, especially due to EU funds and also because people working in agriculture in Poland are not part of large organisations and are usually small farmers. That is why they use Zetor tractors, because we produce small or medium-class tractors and not heavy tractors."