07/12/2011

Industry Boss Backs Manufacturing Exports

NI's manufacturing sector has been enjoying a boost with export sales increasing as part of a continuing recession-busting trend.

While there has also been bad news today - with confirmation that more businesses stopped trading than started in 2010 - other figures released today for the 2010/11 financial year show that total manufacturing sales increased by 3.3% (£513m) over the year to £15.9bn.

The Office for National Statistics has said that 9% of companies here stopped trading - 5,390 in total with new companies only filling 7% of that gap.

However, external manufacturing sales (to areas outside Northern Ireland) actually increased by 2.3% (£282 million) to £12.4bn.

This included increased sales to Great Britain of 4.4% (£312m) to £7.3bn. However, exports fell by 0.6% (£30m) to £5.1bn and exports to the Republic of Ireland fell by 15.7% (£229m) to £1.2bn.

Bryan Gray, Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI (pictured) commented: "The latest figures show that manufacturers here are meeting the challenge and looking further afield for new markets and customers.

"Unfortunately the unsettled financial situation in the Eurozone has hampered progress for many companies.

"We hope that increased stability in world markets will bring fresh opportunities in the New Year and help companies meet the challenging targets set by the Executive," he concluded.
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Also welcoming the latest results that show an increase in manufacturing sales to customers outside NI, Stormont Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "The increase in external sales over the year shows that Northern Ireland manufacturing companies are capable of competing with the best in the world.

"We have almost returned to the level of external sales activity last seen in 2008/09 and much of this has been driven by sales to Great Britain, which have reached a record high.

"There has been a fall in the value of overall export activity. However, much of this was due to a marked decline in sales to the Republic of Ireland.

"In contrast, manufacturing exports to all of our other major markets has increased over the year, despite the uncertainty that continues to surround the global economy," said the DUP Minister.

"Despite the difficult trading conditions, there are still opportunities for growth for businesses that are prepared to seek new markets.

"To ensure continual export success I would encourage companies to optimise all available opportunities to further develop new markets."

She added: "By 2014/15, we want to increase the value of manufacturing exports by 15%. This is a challenging target, but one that we must meet.

"We will be encouraging first time exporters by promoting 60 new start ups selling outside UK markets and a further 440 selling to Great Britain.

"However, we also need to diversify our exports into countries and markets that are showing growth potential.

"This includes building much greater trade alliances with the fast growing emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China," she said.

(BMcC/GK)

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