"The recession has now fully reached the industry,” is how VDMA, Germany’s Agricultural Machinery Assn., describes a 27% falloff in sales during the second quarter of the year compared with the same period in 2008. .

For the first six months of 2009, sales were down 15% compared with the January-through-June period of ‘08.

Sales of German-made tractors have been particularly hard hit, dropping by 37% in the second quarter. Through the first six months of the year, tractor sales are down 21%. January through June, German manufacturers shipped 27,100 units, the lowest production since 2003.

While sales of ag equipment in its domestic market have held up surprisingly well, VDMA attributes the falloff in production and sales to the dramatic drop in exports, particularly to Central and Eastern Europe. Shipments to France, Germany’s most important export market, grew steadily early in the year, but those sales dropped markedly in recent months.

In 2008, the Russian agricultural market ranked as Germany’s second largest export market. But since last fall and through April ‘09, sales to Russian farmers have declined by 59%. VDMA reports that similar results have been experienced in shipments to the Ukraine and Balkan countries.