Exports drive 4% growth in sales for manufacturing
Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector has enjoyed total sales growth of 4% to £18.1bn, new figures show.
Rising export sales for 2013-14 were the driving force behind the figures, shooting up £491m (8.7%) to £6.1bn.
External sales - which include sales to Great Britain as well as exports - rose by 5.4% (£733m) to £14.3bn, while contracts with the Republic of Ireland increased by 9.9% (£140m) to £1.6bn.
But sales within Northern Ireland were down 1% to £3.7bn.
The manufacturing sales and exports survey (MSES) from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also revealed deals to Great Britain were up 3.1% (£244m) to £8.2bn, the highest level of such sales on record.
Increased sales to the rest of the EU - which experienced a rise of 16% - also played a large part in the upward spike.
Overall sales rose 4% - giving a topline figure of £18.1bn, bringing praise from commentators.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the figures provided "more tangible evidence of Northern Ireland's economic recovery".
He said the Republic's "robust recovery" had fed through into a significant uplift in sales among Northern Ireland's manufacturing firms.
"The Republic of Ireland is the most significant market after Great Britain and accounts for one in four of Northern Ireland's manufacturing exports," he said, adding that Northern Ireland firms sell more goods to the Republic than to the Americas and Asia combined.
"Local manufacturers recorded their second successive year of double-digit growth to the Republic of Ireland with a further gain of almost 10% last year.
"This brings the cumulative rise in sales to the Republic of Ireland to almost 25% in just two years."
He pointed out that despite the rise, sales to Northern Ireland's nearest neighbour remain 16% below their pre-downturn peak in 2007/08.
Half of the decline in manufacturing sales to the Republic that occurred during the downturn has been recouped thus far, he pointed out.
"Meanwhile sales to the rest of the EU have increased by 19% over the last two years with two thirds of the decline in sales during the downturn now recouped."