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Business credit key for Northern Ireland export success

Government and the private sector need to make finance more freely available to medium-sized businesses (MSBs) in Northern Ireland to boost exports.

That's the view of business group CBI and business services firm BDO in their report, 'Go your own way,' which found more export-orientated MSBs could be worth an extra £20bn to the UK economy. Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland director, said the availability of credit needs to be freed up if that's to be achieved.

"There is a disturbing gap in export finance that is shackling the international ambitions of medium-sized businesses and could damage the local and UK economy's long-term prospects," he said. "Government support has improved, but the reality is that they have not even scratched the surface when it comes to supporting the efforts of medium-sized businesses."

The report pointed to UK Export Finance, a government-backed export finance initiative which has been used by only 52 small and medium-sized companies in the last year.

"UKEF must reach out to far more businesses on the ground," Mr Smyth said.

Peter Burnside, managing partner at BDO Northern Ireland, said potential exporters need support.

"Local medium-sized businesses need help to understand their potential," he said. "They need hands-on support to help map out the international journey and, importantly, must have access to the right advice and funding to implement their plans.

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