Northern Ireland exports jump 6 per cent over past year

CDE Global, which makes screening equipment, is among the north's biggest exporters

NORTHERN Ireland has vastly outperformed the rest of the UK in growing exports, according to official figures.

The region had exports of £7.4 billion over the year to September - up 6 per cent on the previous 12 month period.

In comparison, exports from the UK as a whole were relatively flat at £279.9bn and Scotland actually recorded a 7.3 per cent drop in exports value.

Imports to the north also increased over the period to by 4.3 per cent to £9.6bn, according to the data from HMRC.

The machinery and transport sector accounted for the greatest value of exports over the 12 months at just under £2.5bn.

Major exporters include CDE Global in Cookstown which makes screening equipment for the quarrying market and plane manufacturer Bombardier in Belfast.

The European Union remains the north's greatest export market accounting for £1.04bn over the third quarter alone compared to £956m for the same period in 2015.

Ulster Bank's chief economist in Northern Ireland Richard Ramsey said the north's performance was "not surprising".

"The figures tally with what we have been finding with the Purchasing Managers' Index," he said.

"It's not a surprise that Northern Ireland is outperforming the UK in terms of exports.

"Because a major market for us is the Republic of Ireland, this has been a positive impact of the Brexit vote in terms of how it has affected currency."

As the value of sterling has fallen against the euro in the months since the EU referendum, goods from the north - and the UK as a whole - have been more affordable to importers in the eurozone.

But Mr Ramsey said it was not restricted to Europe.

"Take a firm operating in the pharmaceutical sector, a lot of their business would be affected by changes in the value of sterling against the dollar which has improved their export values.

"These figures are for Q3 but this is a trend that we expect to see continue into the fourth quarter and the start of 2017.

"However, the flip side is that exporters will begin to see implications on their cost base and a squeeze on their profit margins."

Exports from the machinery and transport sector amounted to £611m in the third quarter, against £573m for the same period in 2015.

The chemicals sector meanwhile exported £326m worth of goods over the three-month period and food and live animals accounted for £261m of exports.

Aside from the EU, North America bought the highest level of goods from Northern Ireland at £429m (down from £467m for the third quarter in 2015).

Asia and Oceania meanwhile imported £172m of produce from the north.

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