SELLING from the Republic into Northern Ireland, or from the North into the market here is the first exporting move for almost three quarters of companies on the island of Ireland, a new survey shows.
The study by all-island business development body InterTradeIreland shows that nine out of ten businesses in the North take their first step into the exporting market by going to the Republic, while about two-thirds in the Republic make their first export sales in the Northern Ireland market.
Cross border trade has declined from the peak of €3.8bn in 2007 to €2.7bn last year, but 43pc of traders surveyed reported an increase in sales compared with three years ago.
Newry-based InterTradeIreland said the experience gained in cross border trade is a stepping stone for the majority of firms and has "significant influence" on the development of additional export markets in 71pc of businesses.
"Ireland and Northern Ireland are very open, small economies to which a positive export performance is vitally important," the report said.
"The cross border market is particularly vital for small firms".
InterTradeIreland receives funding from both the British and Irish governments – a third from the UK and two-thirds from Dublin – to boost both North/South economic cooperation to the benefit of Northern Ireland and the Republic.
A sample of 277 businesses which have taken part in the trade programmes of InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland were surveyed for the study. Other key findings from the report include:
* The biggest factor influencing the development of export or cross-border business was the desire to expand or grow.
* More than half of respondents identified a lack of internal financial resources, access to external finance, awareness of supports and market knowledge as the main challenges to exporting.
* Exporters are, on average, twice as likely as non-exporters to have a written strategy or business plan.
* Findings suggest that exporting begins as an ad-hoc and opportunity driven action rather than a strategic decision.
Meanwhile, a separate report published this morning shows that the performance of Irish exports fell back 1.3pc over the summer months to €46.2bn.
The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) latest review found that growth by agri food exports of 7.8pc and services export growth of 6.5pc was not sufficient to prevent an overall dip in exports in the July to September period.
Manufacturing exports contracted by 7.8pc.
IEA chief executive John Whelan said the Budget did very little to stimulate the manufacturing sector.
"Manufacturing has contributed significantly to Ireland's economic development in the past – and should be a crucial element of Ireland's economic future, if given adequate support to compete internationally," he said.
"We have strengths in a range of sectors but the competitive situation internationally is being affected by heavy stimulus measures in many of our trading partner countries, and supported by currency depreciation measures in the UK, USA, Japan and China," he added.