Belfast Telegraph

Sales have fallen but NI exports rise, says trade body

By David Elliot

The last quarter of 2011 proved a difficult one for Northern Ireland's businesses with sales volume falling, according to new survey.

But InterTradeIreland's all-island quarterly business monitor showed companies here managed to export more despite the negative impact from the eurozone debt crisis. The survey found that 41% of businesses here saw a decline in sales in the last three months of 2011 and only 18% saw sales volume increase.

A total of 70% of companies here said the economic troubles in Europe have had an adverse impact on trade with larger firms hit hardest. And just under 40% of companies in Northern Ireland said their business was contracting compared to 56% of those surveyed in the Republic.

Northern Ireland companies are also more likely to be involved in cross-border trade, with 23% exporting into the Republic of Ireland compared with just 16% trading north from the Republic.

"There is no doubt that the continued economic uncertainty and the Eurozone crisis in particular is having a continued impact on local businesses," said Aidan Gough, Director of Strategy and Policy for InterTradeIreland.

"It is significant that we are seeing a rise in the number of larger firms and exporters who reported a drop in demand for their products and services during the last quarter."

The appetite for funding also seems to be waning. Only 7% of businesses surveyed said they applied for a loan or overdraft in the third quarter of last year.

"This reluctance to seek out funding may be indicative of the lack of confidence that many of those surveyed feel in their ability to secure finance and their desire to invest at this time," Mr Gough said.

"Paradoxically, investment and innovation to allow businesses to grow is now more important than ever and InterTradeIreland is continuing to work with business owners, government bodies and investors to ensure that it continues to meet the changing needs of the business community."