Increasing Rural Electrification and Positive Farm Sentiment to Boost Demand for Agricultural Pumps: CRISIL

Increasing rural electrification and positive farm sentiment to boost demand for agricultural pumps: CRISIL

Higher volume-driven growth and stabilizing input prices will lead to operating margins rising up to 100 basis points to 11-12% this fiscal, and improve cash accruals. That, along with steady working capital levels and moderate capex spending needs will ensure debt remains at levels similar to last fiscal, supporting stable credit profiles.

Increasing rural electrification positive farm sentiment riding on normal monsoon, and improved cash flows after a healthy rabi season last fiscal will boost demand for agricultural pumps in the country this fiscal, leading to 8-10% revenue growth for their manufacturers, said CRISIL Ratings on Thursday.

Higher volume-driven growth and stabilizing input prices will lead to operating margins rising up to 100 basis points to 11-12% this fiscal, and improve cash accruals. That, along with steady working capital levels and moderate capex spending needs will ensure debt remains at levels similar to last fiscal, supporting stable credit profiles. An analysis of agricultural pump manufacturers rated by CRISIL, which accounts for 40% of the sector’s revenue, indicates as much. The Rs 5,000 crore sector is dominated by conventional pumps (grid-connected and diesel pumps), which account for 92% share, followed by solar pumps (8%).

Anuj Sethi, Senior Director, CRISIL Ratings said “This fiscal, the sector’s growth of 8-10% will be largely volume-driven because of positive farm sentiment, better farm cash flows, increasing rural electrification, and stable pump prices. Last fiscal, despite volumes declining on year by 6%, the sector’s revenue grew 17% largely due to a steep rise in realization, in keeping with higher input prices (mainly pig iron and mild steel),” Thanks to better demand, conventional pumps are expected to grow 7-8% this fiscal despite facing some headwinds, while solar pumps will see 15% growth, propelled by government incentives.”

Erratic power supply remains a key hurdle for conventional pumps as it impacts seamless water supply and therefore farm output. In addition, new and free grid connections for pumps are being curtailed. Besides, diesel pumps have become dearer in recent years. Besides, the Goods and Services Tax on conventional pumps has increased to 18% from 12% in the first quarter of this fiscal, making these pumps costlier.

Rajeswari Karthigeyan, Associate Director, CRISIL Ratings said “Solar pumps, despite being substantially costlier than conventional ones, are expected to benefit from the central government’s Kusum Scheme, which provides significant incentives. Under this, farmers need to pay only 10% of the cost of the pump — which is almost the same as that of a conventional pump — upfront, while government subsidy and bank loan (under priority lending) will contribute the balance in a 60:30 ratio, respectively.

Net-net, credit profiles of agricultural pump manufacturers would remain stable, supported by better cash accruals, controlled working capital due to stabilizing input prices, and no major capex. The sector is operating at only 65-70% of capacity at present, obviating the need for capacity expansion. Hence, the key debt metrics — interest coverage and gearing — should improve to 13-14 times and 0.15 times this fiscal from 11 times and 0.20 times, respectively, in the last. That said, the pace of monsoon in the second half of this fiscal and geopolitical risks affecting raw material prices, especially pig iron and mild steel, will bear watching in the road ahead.

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