French manufacturer Sulky-Burel’s new UK subsidiary is expected to play a significant part in doubling group export sales revenues over the next five years. Sulky UK makes its public debut at the LAMMA show with a number of new and improved seed drills, fertiliser spreaders and control electronics. Julien Burel, president and chief executive of the family-owned business located in Brittany points out that the UK is already the group’s third biggest market after France and Germany. “But we think it has greater potential, which is why we’re investing in our own distribution, parts and service company,” he says. “We had an excellent relationship with RECO, our distributor for the past 30 years, and we are parting amicably. But because of the increasingly technical nature of our products, we have to get closer to farmers and contractors, the end users of our equipment.” Sulky-Burel announced its split from RECO last summer, following in the footsteps of several Continental manufacturers – such as Amazone, Grégoire-Besson, Grimme, Horsch, Krone and, most recently, Pöttinger – who have spurned importers in favour of their own distribution companies. The cost of setting up and running the Sulky UK operation is being reduced by sharing offices and parts storage premises at Bourne in Lincolnshire with fellow French manufacturer Grégoire-Besson. The two companies also share a three-man national sales team and technical service staff. Product manager Dave Parsons, who has been recruited from RECO, points out that the companies have complementary equipment ranges, with Grégoire-Besson focused on ploughs and heavy tillage equipment, while Sulky’s range predominantly covers seed drills and fertiliser spreaders. “It makes sense economically to share these resources and it helps that the two businesses have a similar approach and values,” he explains. “At Sulky UK, our priority now is to implement a strategy to establish a network of dealers committed to the Sulky product range. “Because of the company’s long history, RECO had relationships with a lot of dealers,” he adds. “We’re looking to work with around 40 or so strong dealerships, build trust and create a market that enables them to commit to the technical and training resources needed to supply and support Sulky equipment.” Julien Burel outlined the Sulky-Burel group’s growth ambitions at the €20 million (£15 million) factory complex near Rennes completed just over three years ago and where investment continues in automation and more efficient production tools to combat costs and maintain quality standards. The most recent installation is a of a €0.5 million (£380,000) double robot welding system for Sulky fertiliser spreader frames. Mr Burel says he wants to see export revenues doubled by 2020 from 30% of group turnover, which in the last financial year amounted to €42 million (£32 million). That would increase the size of the business overall and cushion it from swings in demand in the French market, where the group claims leadership in fertiliser spreaders and a strong position in seed drill sales.