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Call to ease the heavy burden on Northern Ireland's exporting firms

By Margaret Canning

Praise: Kevin Kingston
Praise: Kevin Kingston

Manufacturing firms in Northern Ireland can expect growth of nearly 3% this year but are facing problems with exports, an event has heard.

Energy costs and currency fluctuations were the biggest bug-bear for manufacturers with designs on overseas markets, the event hosted by Danske Bank and Manufacturing NI heard. Manufacturers employ 80,000 people here - 11% of the workforce.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of lobby group Manufacturing NI, said: "Manufacturing makes an enormous contribution to the economy. We have some market-leading companies, with great products and talented people.

"However, our manufacturers continue to face a challenging landscape. The issue isn't one of demand or quality of innovation. Rather it is the cost of doing business."

He called for a "cross-cutting strategy" from government which would help companies invest in skills and set targets for competitive energy prices.

Kevin Kingston, Danske Bank's deputy chief executive, said manufacturing companies in Northern Ireland had led the way in the downturn by increasing productivity, seeking new markets and cutting costs.

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