Belfast Telegraph

Companies must embrace exports to new markets

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland companies need to change their attitude to export in order to excel, with just 5% of businesses accounting for 90% of our total exports, it has been warned.

Mark Nodder, managing director of the Wright Group, which makes buses for customers in Europe, Asia and the USA, was speaking at the Association of Chartered, Certified Accountants' Business Leaders' Forum at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast.

He pointed out that only 1.2% of Northern Ireland businesses are providing goods and services overseas and called for firms to generate opportunities by looking beyond the considerable challenges within Europe and seek growth opportunities in new emerging markets.

However, recent research from Invest Northern Ireland has shown a 20% increase in manufacturing exports and 60% growth in the emerging markets.

"A recent UK-wide survey by the Chamber of Commerce has shown that 40% of businesses are active exporters," he said.

"Northern Ireland's export impact does not come close, with 5% of businesses accounting for 90% of our total exports, and we must forensically address the issues which are prohibiting businesses from exporting and make them more attractive to overseas markets.

"A dearth of access to finance, lack of market intelligence, knowledge of available support, as well as the challenges of regulatory, legal and overseas requirements must be overcome.

"Economic stagnation in Europe has been well documented but as a business, we have seen the opportunities that are available in emerging markets such as Asia, India, Latin America and the Middle East. Companies need to look at how they can adapt their business to take advantage of these opportunities and the ambassadorial role of the Northern Ireland Executive in partaking in overseas trade missions is crucial.

"There are some positive signs, with recent research from Invest NI indicating a 20% increase in manufacturing exports and 60% growth in the emerging markets. However, if we are to reverse our current economic drivers and develop a robust balanced economy, the considerable barriers to the growth of business exports must be addressed.

Joan Ballantine, chair of ACCA Ulster Members' Network, added: "If we are to see a significant uptake in the level of export activity, Northern Ireland businesses need help to break down the barriers to export and be aware about the opportunities that exist to help rejuvenate export-led growth."

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