2019 Turnover Exceeded CZK 2 Billion for the First Time Ever
I have been writing a retrospective glance of past seasons for the last three years. The year of 2019 was very successful for our Company and for the first time in our history, we have exceeded a turnover of CZK 2 billion by achieving a turnover of about CZK 2.1 billion, which is an increase of approx 12% when compared with the previous year. But that is not so important to me these days because the way we do business is no longer a chase for high increases and charts filled with positive numbers. I am well aware of the fact that the procedures we recommend and technologies we deliver, including our post-sale assistance capabilities, influence more and more farmers and affect the everyday business on many continents.
The Beginning of It All…
When I started working for STROM Export (BEDNAR’s original name) in 2006, it wasn’t really an export and production company. Alongside our business in the Czech Republic, we delivered a few units of disc harrows to Germany and Hungary. At that time, the turnover wasn’t even 5% of the current one and we didn’t own a production hall. The Company then employed about 15 people.
My father sent me out to work in the field right after school so that I would learn to communicate with farmers. That was easy for me, my grandfather was an agronomist in a farming cooperative and I understood the jargon. I was in charge of North and South Bohemia (they used to call us/me the Strom Expert, in a respectful manner 😊).
I used to love my trips to Agrotip Roudnice nad Labem. The owner, František Blažek, was a great guy with a lot of experience in selling agricultural technology and I learned a lot from him. He assigned me to Ing. Zdeněk Ondra, the Czech tillage master – he knew how to live. I sold my first machines with him, driving around in a Škoda Felicia.
In a short time, I came to understand that if we wanted to achieve something and build our own production plant, we had to start exporting. My first markets were Slovakia and Romania where we became quite successful within two years. I also have to mention the excellent increases in sales in Poland, which has been taken care of by my companion, David Ryčl, the Marketing Manager. On my business trips, I have met very successful farmers who advised me about what machines they needed and why they needed them.
I would like to return to our first hall in Rychnov nad Kněžnou that we purchased at an auction. As one Czech farmer told me: “Jan, you can’t build machines like that in a barn!” It was clear to me that he would soon leave us. I’ll be happy to call him and meet him in our new production plant that we are planning to open in the spring of 2020.
I have met a lot of customers, especially on our domestic market, who have asked me about our sales in 2019. Before I even had a chance to reply, they would continue: “Russia and Ukraine, you’re selling a lot over there, right?! They don’t need quality, there’s a lot of space there.” I don’t know why some people think that Russian and Ukrainian farmers do not need quality machines?! They are professional farms, with plant production often at the same level as the best Czech farmers, or even higher. The number of hectares that the machines have to cultivate there is many times higher than in Central Europe and the contractual terms and conditions for suppliers of these agricultural holdings are very strict.
The situation in Russia in 2019 was not ideal and the sales were decreasing. A new law on the sale of soil to farmers is under way in Ukraine so most of the money will be invested in soil, leaving less resources for purchasing machines.
So, how is it possible that BEDNAR grew by 12%? Because Russia and Ukraine are only two of the many markets we supply. We are probably the only east European manufacturer of soil cultivation and seeding machines that have made it in France, where we hold an excellent position in the disc cultivator statistics thanks to SWIFTERDISC and a very good position in the seed drill statistics, with OMEGA being the 6th most sold machine out of all the brands. In addition to France, we have also achieved excellent results in Poland, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Lithuania and Romania. Outside Europe, our largest selling markets include Australia, followed by South Africa and New Zealand.
We have experienced a sky-rocketing entry to the market in Great Britain where we employ our own team of sellers who have managed to find top dealers in the six-month period. BEDNAR will officially enter the English market at the Lamma Fair in January 2020.
We also have new territorial managers in Canada and we are building a business network there. That will be my main task for 2020. We have delivered the first machines to the USA and to a new importer in Kazakhstan.
Situation in the Czech Republic
The share of the Czech sales in the total receipts of the Company is reducing. In 2019, it was about 8%. However, that does not mean that the Czech Republic is less important to us. Quite the contrary! We have a lot of work here!
At the end of the year, we lost several seed-drill investment tenders with large customers in the Czech Republic over two weeks. I am very sorry about that as we manufactured almost 100 Omega seed drills in 2019 and we have been intensely investing in the development of seeding technology. However, I accept this as motivation for the following year when we will endeavour to convince customers with our agronomic arguments in the field. As far as the quality of seeding and technical machine parameters are concerned, there is nothing to worry about and we are prepared to play a considerably more significant role and take a larger market share in the future.
I look forward to the Techagro exposition where we will introduce several novelties and I will be in close contact with Czech and Slovak farmers. It is always a special time for me. Right after Techagro, we will start preparing for the official opening of our new production halls in Rychnov nad Kněžnou. All farmers will be invited to our new production plant through our business partners and we will have the opportunity to discuss the needs of modern farming.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from Jan Bednář
BEDNAR FMT s.r.o.