Northern Ireland exports to Saudi Arabia, the most dynamic market in the Middle East, grew by 30 per cent in 2011 compared to 2010. Other markets producing business for local companies last year included China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Romania, Turkey, Finland and even Mongolia and the Antarctic.
These successes show that Northern Ireland companies, both large and small, are increasingly pursuing business leads beyond longer established markets in Europe, particularly the Republic of Ireland, and North America, which are still locked in recession.
Many companies are also now benefiting from a strategic switch of resources by Invest Northern Ireland to more distant markets which currently offer greater export potential.
Over the past year, for instance, Invest NI has strengthened its trade development operations in the Arabian Gulf, opening an office in Jeddah, a key business centre in Saudi Arabia, and setting up a base in Bangalore, one of India’s most important technology centres, to support the work of an existing office in Mumbai.
Invest NI has also designated its longstanding trade development centre at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as its hub for a region that now includes other developing markets including Kurdistan.
Experienced trade advisers have been appointed to assist local companies in Brazil, South Africa, the Nordics, the Netherlands and eastern and central Europe, focusing on Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, as well as Russia. Their role is to help companies pinpoint market opportunities, generate leads and arrange meetings with potential customers.
Invest NI is supporting the advisers through an extensive programme of workshops on market opportunities and business procedures. In addition, Invest NI continues to encourage and to assist newcomers to exporting gain knowledge and confidence as part of the comprehensive Boosting Business initiative
Invest NI’s Trade Director Dr Vicky Kell says the growth of business in markets such as Saudi Arabia and India is helping to balance the problems being experienced for example in the Republic of Ireland, which saw the sale of manufactured goods there from Northern Ireland suppliers dip by almost 20 per cent in 2010/11.
“Overall exports are doing reasonable well in very challenging market conditions. In 2010/11, for instance, export of manufactured goods contributed over £5billion to the local economy, slightly down on the year before.
“Sales to the rest of the world and Europe outside Great Britain and the Republic both recorded a slight increase. There are clear indications that many companies now recognise the need to look beyond Britain and the Irish Republic for sustainable growth. Initiatives that we’ve implemented this year are designed to help to accelerate sales in these developing markets.”
This article appeared in The Irish News on 20 March 2012.