Exports by Invest NI-backed firms contracted by almost £1bn in 2020

Invest NI boss Kevin Holland, said lockdown took its toll on the economy during 2020. Picture by Kelvin Boyes

EXPORT sales by Invest NI-backed companies contracted by almost £1 billion in 2020, the economic support body has said.

Publishing its performance results for the year ending March 31 2021, Invest NI said the global Covid-19 pandemic had caused significant disruption for many of the 1,700 businesses it works with.

The sales growth among Invest NI-supported firms had by-and-large slowed in the lead up to the pandemic, with the £1.7bn growth in ‘all sales’ recorded in 2017 easing to £1.3bn in 2019.

But the onset of the pandemic resulted in a £0.4bn contraction in ‘all sales’.

The impact was most severe in export sales, which contracted by £0.9bn in 2020, rolling back almost two years of growth. Export sales had already slipped from £800m in 2018 to £400m in 2019.

“Lockdown clearly took its toll on the local, national and global economies with the single year 2020 outturn figures showing a decline on previous years,” said Invest NI’s chief executive Kevin Holland.

However, he said that despite the impact of Covid and Brexit, and the downward trend in sales output, the business development agency managed to broadly stay within range of its four-year business strategy targets.

The 2020-21 report states that Invest NI made over 3,000 offers of financial assistance during 2020-21, totalling £106m. The body has previously stated that every £1 of assistance it offers results in £5 of investment in the local economy.

Invest NI has also detailed how the pandemic came to dominate its operations last year, with the body charged with delivering £100m of emergency support to 13,100 applicants across five schemes as of March 31 2021.

“Between Covid and EU Exit we engaged with an additional 14,000 Northern Ireland businesses last year,” said Kevin Holland.

“Our business support team received over 35,500 calls to our 0800 numbers and dealt with almost 11,000 email enquiries over 12 months in 2020-21.

“This call volume was a 600 per cent increase on a standard year, and at its peak the team was responding to c400 calls a day,” he said.

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