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No guarantee on exports

WE have heard it all before at this stage – 'exports will lead us out of the downturn', and 'trading overseas will be the difference between a company growing or failing', and so on.

The fact that these sort of phrases have been repeated ad nauseum over the last few years doesn't make them any less true, however.

One need only look at the monthly manufacturing data to see that there is effectively a two-track economy now, with the export sector leaving domestic business far behind.

In many ways exporters, no matter what size the business, are a lot like small firms.

They have to take chances moving into hostile markets, and they often find themselves having to explain to their banks that taking on, say, the Russian radiator market actually makes perfect business sense. Yesterday's report from the Irish Exporters' Association demonstrates the chances exporters have to take, and the optimism they need to do it.

A staggering 77pc of those surveyed believe they will send more goods and services abroad next year, while they are targeting countries as familiar as the UK, and as alien as Brazil and the Gulf States.

Exports are projected to hit near record levels this year, but as a small open economy we are at the mercy of international trade conditions.

If our export markets go under, so does our export sector.

Export levels in recent years have been stellar, but we must be wary that target markets remain wealthy enough to buy what we are selling.

Irish Independent