Export opportunities in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is the largest export market for Northern Ireland manufactured goods, accounting for 37.4% of all exports and contributing over £2.2 billion in sales during 2013/14.

Key Facts

  • Population: 4.2 million - over 40 per cent resides within 80 miles of Dublin
  • Capital: Dublin 1.1 million
  • Currency: Euro
  • GDP per capita: Euro25,000

The majority of exports to the Republic of Ireland were in the food and beverages sector accounting for nearly £1 billion, an increase of 15% on the previous year. In particular exports of meat and meat preparations, cereals and cereal production and dairy products and birds' eggs increased by 27.2%, 22.6% and 19.6% respectively.

It is also the UK’s fifth largest export market and imports more from the UK than any other country. Northern Ireland products were included in the £27 billion of goods and services from the UK to Ireland in 2012.

The Republic is currently the largest export market for Northern Ireland food and drink. Many other sectors avail of the opportunities provided e.g. construction.

The Republic's close proximity and easy transport links make it an ideal first step market for Northern Ireland companies especially small and medium sized enterprises.

The Republic is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging a robust 7% from 1995-2004 and 7.7% in the past year. Agriculture, once the most important sector, has been over taken by industry and services. Industry accounts for 46% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and 29% of the workforce. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's growth, the economy has also benefited from a rise in consumer spending, construction, and business investment.

The nation hosts nine of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies and seven of the top ten global information and communications technology companies.

How Invest Northern Ireland can help

Invest NI’s Business Information Centre offers access to a wide range of current documentary and online databases covering all aspects of doing business in the Republic of Ireland. In addition, Food and Drink companies can access advice and practical support including lead generation from Invest NI’s Trade advisory staff in the Republic.

Invest NI also works closely with InterTradeIreland on its initiatives to help promote trade with the Republic.

Republic of Ireland at a glance

The Economy

  • Growth 7.7%
  • Unemployment 10.9%

Main Industries

  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
  • Food and Tourism
  • Life Sciences
  • Engineering

Business Opportunities

  • ICT
  • Pharma and Life Sciences
  • Agrifood industries
  • Engineering including aerospace

Northern Ireland companies trading in the Republic of Ireland

Very many Northern Ireland companies already have significant business in the Republic of Ireland. They include Wrightbus, FM Environmental, Western Building Systems.

The success of Northern Ireland's flourishing food sector has also led to significant business in the Republic for companies such as Moy Park, Kettyle Irish Foods, Hannan Meats, Wilson’s Country, Yummy Bakes, Genesis Bakery, Kearney Blue Cheese, Strathroy Dairies, Broighter Gold and Deli-Lites.

Benefits for Northern Ireland businesses exporting to the Republic of Ireland

  • Strong transport links
  • Similar regulatory and legal framework
  • Well established cross border banking system
  • Ideal starter or test export market
  • Sophisticated consumer market
  • Open economy, used to imports
  • Good perception of the quality of British and Northern Irish goods and services

Strengths of the Irish market

  • Strong bilateral trade between the two countries
  • Flexibility and range of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises representing 99.8% of active enterprises in Ireland
  • 3 million British tourists visit Ireland every year
  • Highly educated workforce

Challenges doing business in Ireland

Doing business in Ireland is very similar to doing business in the UK. If your product or service is successful in the UK, there is a good chance you will be successful in Ireland.

However, there are certain challenges when doing business in or with Ireland that you should be aware of. These include:

  • challenging economic situation, although it has improved in the last 12 months
  • trade is conducted in euros which means companies my have to open euro bank accounts
  • recent reduction in purchasing power of Irish families
  • turbulent consumer confidence
  • competition against a robust domestic market
  • costs of doing business can be high

Direct debit mandates, Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (BACS), Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and cheques are all widely used in Ireland. Standard payment terms are usually 30 days. However, average payment days currently stand at 62.

Economic Growth

Ireland’s budget deficit, while steadily falling, will be about 7.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2013. Ireland remains on course to hit the ‘Stability and Growth Pact’ limit of below 3% by the end of 2015.

Ireland is a member of the European Union (EU), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international bodies. Goods manufactured in the UK are exempt from import duties.

Ireland hosts:

  • 9 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies
  • 7 of the top 10 global ICT companies
  • 12 of the top 15 medical device companies

Trade agreements

Ireland is a member of the European Union (EU), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international bodies. Goods manufactured in the UK are exempt from import duties.

UK and Ireland trade

There are strong trade ties between both countries. The UK exported £19 billion in goods to Ireland in 2013.

The main exports by value are:

  • fuel and lubricants
  • manufactured articles
  • machinery
  • transport
  • food and live animals
  • chemicals

The top 10 UK export categories to Ireland in 2013

  • petroleum and related materials
  • miscellaneous manufactured articles
  • gas, natural and manufactured
  • medicinal and pharmaceutical products
  • articles of apparel and clothing accessories
  • essential oils and perfume materials; toilet preparations etc
  • electrical machinery, appliances and electrical parts
  • road vehicles
  • cereals and cereal preparations
  • telecommunications, sound recording and reproducing appliances