Businesses hit a target for dropping dependency on UK exports two years ahead of schedule

Enterprise Ireland originally set the goal for 2020.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

IRISH COMPANIES EXCEEDED a 2020 target to reduce dependency on UK exports two years ahead of schedule, according to Enterprise Ireland.

Dependency by Irish exporters on the UK market fell to 33% in 2018 – a target that was initially set for next year – down a single percentage point on 2017′s tally.

Overall exports for 2018 grew 6% year-on-year to €23.8 billion, the highest level “in the history of the agency”, according to Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon, who presented the group’s annual report today.

The majority of overseas markets, including the UK, experienced growth last year.

Sales to Germany, France and the Netherlands each surpassed the billion-euro mark. Exports to North America increased 5.5% to just over €4 billion, while the UK retained the title as Ireland’s biggest export market, recording sales of more than €7.9 billion.

“Obviously the UK is and will remain our number one export market,” Sinnamon said, adding that Enterprise Ireland’s strategy will focus on diversification ahead of the looming Brexit deadline in October.

However, the figures also showed that exports to the Asia Pacific region dropped 0.2% to €2 billion.

More R&D investment 

According to a survey of more than 2,000 Enterprise Ireland client companies, 40% have reported experiencing a negative impact from Brexit.

“We can see the impact of Brexit hitting the food (industry), particularly in the UK market,” Sinnamon said.

When asked about the measures they’re taking to Brexit-proof their business, more than half of respondents said they are investing in market diversification.

Some 40% predicted that their profitability will be negatively impacted by the end of this year and 29% said their ability to invest will be hurt.

Sinnamon said the “most disappointing” result from the survey was that 30% said they had invested in research and development in 2018.

“There’s no point in us putting resources into international markets if companies don’t have products that are ready for the market,” she said. 

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