Exporters selling their wares in record-breaking volumes, figures show

Official figures show Northern Ireland companies are shipping more wares to overseas territories
Gary McDonald Business Editor

EXPORT businesses in Northern Ireland had a record-breaking £24.1 billion worth of external sales in 2016, according to latest official figures.

This accounted for more than a third (35 per cent) of firms' total sales of £68.9 billion, which itself was up £1.8 billion (or 2.7 per cent) on the previous year.

Pure exports - that's goods sold outside the UK market - were estimated to be worth £10.1 billion in 2016 (the Brexit referendum took place in June that year), which was an increase of 7.3 per cent over the year and followed a decline in the previous 12-month period.

Indeed exports rose in virtually every global destination targeted by Northern Ireland's growing number of export businesses (an additional 201 firms started selling their wares outside their home patch last year).

Exports to the Republic of Ireland increased by £73m (2.2 per cent) over the year to £3.4bn while sales to Britain jumped £281m to £14bn (up 2 per cent).

Sales to the rest of the EU (excluding Ireland) increased by £200m (9.4 per cent) to £2.3bn, with the Germany and France making up about half of that total (£569m and £489m respectively).

Inside the EU, sales more than doubled to countries like Austria (from £22m to £47m), Slovakia (£4m to £14m) and Croatia (£3m to £6m) and rose too in the likes of Denmark (£48m to £67m) and Poland (£85m to £99m) but fell back in larger markets such as Spain (£178m to £164m) and the Netherlands (£345m to £336m).

In non-EU countries within Europe, Northern Ireland sales fell back significantly in Switzerland (£903m to £736m) but were up in Turkey (£35m to £50m).

Exports to the rest of the world increased by £414m (10.4 per cent) last year to £4.4 billion, with the US by far the north's biggest market in this group (£1.85bn).

Interestingly, Northern Ireland exporters are selling more to far-shore markets like Australia (£136 million worth of goods went Down Under in 2016) and, although a relatively modest market, to New Zealand (sales here jumped from £11m to £18m).

By industry sector, most saw an increase in exports, with food and construction showing the largest increases.

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