A barge loaded with 10 made-in-China combine harvesters at Heihe port, Heilongjiang province. The vehicles were sold to companies in Blagoveshchensk of Russia. (Photo provided to China Daily)
"China's goal is to produce a large-scale, modern agricultural sector, which is efficient. This will further boost the domestic farm machinery market," Ma Wenjun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.
Still, the market, which has witnessed 10 percent growth rates during the past few years, is still dominated by foreign brands such as John Deere. The global corporation, which has its headquarters in the United States, manufactures agricultural, construction and forestry machinery.
In a bid to compete with the international heavyweights, Zoomlion acquired a 60 percent stake in the farm machinery maker Chery Heavy Industry Co Ltd, which is based in Wuhu in East China's Anhui province, for about 2 billion yuan last year.
This will help propel the company into a leading agricultural machinery enterprise in China, Zoomlion said in a statement, as well as beefing up its technology, increasing its sales network and management setup.
"Technological breakthroughs will be key to the farm equipment market," Zhan, chairman and CEO, said. "Through innovation and updating of machinery products, strong companies will become stronger, and smaller companies will be left out in the cold."
Overseas acquisitions are also in Zoomlion's sights as it expands into the mid-to high-end sector of the farming equipment industry.
"We are waiting for the right time and the right partner to explore the overseas market," Zhan said.
"The development of agricultural machinery is likely to follow the same route as the construction equipment industry.
"It will gradually move up the value chain, but it will be a long process," he added.
"With urbanization and overseas expansion, we will capture this golden opportunity to develop ourselves into a leading global company in the agricultural equipment market."
Numbers behind a major industry
Chinese companies specializing in agricultural machinery are growing at an amazing rate.
They reported double-digit profits in the first six months of the year while other manufacturing sectors stagnated as China's economy slowed.
The country's industrial sector generated 2.84 trillion yuan ($447.2 billion) in profit in the first half of the year, down 0.7 percent compared to the same period in 2014. But it was a different story for the agricultural machinery industry, which increased 13.69 percent in the first six months, topping 11.8 billion yuan, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Association of Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers.
Despite the sluggish economy, the country's 2,200 farm machinery firms have posted strong overseas growth. In the first half of this year, they exported 15.87 billion yuan worth of products, up 0.51 percent year-on-year, the association reported.
One survey, conducted by ASKCI Consulting Co Ltd, a research company, showed that China's agricultural machinery industry grew faster than the country's manufacturing sector as a whole.
Data revealed that the agricultural machinery industry had 70.67 billion yuan in fixed assets during the first six months, up 25.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Foreign direct investment in the sector was 530 million yuan, up 180.3 percent year-on-year.
Last year, exports of China's farming machinery industry hit $10.57 billion, up 12.68 percent compared to 2013.
Exports of Chinese-made tractors and combine harvesters showed the largest increase, with year-on-year growth of 24.58 percent and 31.23 percent respectively, the National Bureau of Statistics said.