Enterprise Ireland firms saw steady exports in ‘challenging’ year

23 Jun 2021

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaking at Enterprise Ireland's results event. Image: Maxwell Photography

There was a slight rise in exports in 2020, but companies supported by the State agency expect growth of 8pc this year as economies begin to reopen.

Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland saw exports remain steady in the face of a global pandemic.

Overall, these Irish businesses recorded exports of €25.48bn last year, representing an increase of 0.3pc on the previous year.

Exports to the Eurozone were up by 1.6pc to €5.85bn. This region now accounts for nearly a quarter of exports, which is double what it was a decade ago.

The UK remains the largest market, but exports there fell by 3.8pc in 2020. It now accounts for 29pc of total exports, which is down from 40pc a decade ago.

‘2020 was a year like no other and Irish businesses pivoted and innovated’

Exports to North America and Asia-Pacific held up well during the year, falling by just 1pc, but the impact of the pandemic was clearer in the Middle East, Africa and India market, where exports were down 7pc.

The main sectors of growth were construction (up 12pc to €2.51bn), consumer retail (up 6.1pc to €989m) and fintech (up 2pc to €658m).

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, described the export results as “very robust”.

“Despite the disruption of the pandemic and Brexit, there was a small increase in exports. 2020 was a year like no other and Irish businesses pivoted and innovated to ensure they could continue to trade and, in some cases, increase or win new business.”

Leo Clancy, the newly appointed CEO of Enterprise Ireland, said that during this “challenging period” the agency helped Irish companies secure more than 1,400 contracts.

It also provided a range of Covid-19 funding supports, including €181m under the Sustaining Enterprise Fund to 671 companies.

Looking ahead, Irish businesses surveyed by Enterprise Ireland are expecting an 8pc boost in export sales by the end of 2021 as economies reopen.

The first half of the year has already shown positive signs of growth, the agency said, with a 14pc increase in new contract wins compared to the same period last year.

“As economies around the globe rebound and open, our client companies are forecasting a return to growth and we will also be supporting them through the full reopening of our overseas office network, trade mission programme and in-market supports,” Clancy added.

“We take nothing for granted, however, and need to acknowledge that the second half of 2021 will continue to be challenging.”

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic