Some post-pandemic steel prices doubled but market now sees price plateau
Farmers Forum staff
WINCHESTER — Manufacturers serving the farm community continue to grapple with the economic fallout of ruinous pandemic policies and inflation but there is now some stability in the supply chain and related costs.
During the height of the pandemic, “everything doubled and some things tripled,” recalled Wes Douma, vice president of Quintan Products, a Winchester steel retailer and custom-welding shop. Steel prices have since settled but remain about double of what they were before the pandemic, he added.
With the return of some market stability, the company has been making some larger steel purchases to lock in costs, Douma said. “Because I don’t know if they’re going back up.”
The uncertainty of the pandemic period meant that Quintan had to reassess its own retail prices every 30 days, he said. However, the supply-chain woes that drove some farm-equipment parts into the stratosphere did create more demand for the shop’s fabrication services. In some cases, a part that might have soared to $1,000 over a dealership counter could be repaired or replicated for $200 at Quintan, according to Douma.
Two manufacturers who spoke with Farmers Forum at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show also reflected on the curve balls the pandemic threw at them. They reported that mid-2023 marked the first time since the onset of the pandemic that they’ve been able to distribute updated equipment price lists. Of course, the listed prices have doubled but the operators are confident that those prices will have some shelf life.
“Prices were going up every day, so fast we couldn’t print a price list for two years,” said Husky Equipment President Walter Grose, Alma-based maker of manure tankers. “People would call and say, ‘what’s the price?’ And I’d say, well, let me run it, and that’s the price today.”
The pandemic labour shortage compelled him to work seven days a week for two-and-a-half years. “From 7 in the morning until 10 at night. Hey, farmers do the same thing,” he added, downplaying the predicament.
He’s also had to source European suppliers, which took three times as long and he had to pay in advance.
“I would say we’re 80 % back to normal (operationally), but not the prices,” he said. “What was $70,000 before is $140,000 now.”
Herbst Machinery founder and owner Noel Good, of Northern Ireland, conceded that prices for his dump trailers have also doubled. “Steel rocketed in price, but steel has come back down again, which we’re happy about.”
During the pandemic, “it got to the stage where we were looking at our dump trailer prices every week,” said Good, whose company makes three trailers a day. “It’s the first time in a long time that we can say that things have settled down.”
Despite a new price plateau, the costs still come as a splash of cold water.
Custom harvest operator and retired dairy farmer Dan Douglas of Glencoe said he was quoted $2,500 for a new shearbar for his harvester last year. The part previously cost $900. He wound up rewelding the edges on the old one for $100.
He also priced a harvester tire at $7,000 last year, up from $4,000 before the pandemic.