Enterprise Ireland companies had record year for exports in 2021

12 Jul 2022

From left: Terence O’Rourke, Nicola Mitchell, Sinead Fitzmaurice, Leo Varadkar, Jennifer Rock and Leo Clancy. Image: Maxwells Photography

The UK remains the biggest market for exports by Enterprise Ireland client companies, but the Eurozone and North America have seen strong growth.

Companies backed by Enterprise Ireland saw exports increase by 12pc last year to reach a record €27.29bn.

Enterprise Ireland is the State agency responsible for helping Irish businesses expand abroad. Its client companies contributed a total of €31bn to Ireland’s domestic economy in 2021.

New figures published today (12 July) show that exports grew last year in all major territories where these companies do business, including the UK, the Eurozone and North America.

The UK remains Ireland’s biggest export market, generating €8.43bn last year. This represents nearly one-third of the total export value and marks a 15pc rise compared to 2020 figures.

Next in line is the Eurozone, where Enterprise Ireland has been trying to increase the presence of Irish businesses. Exports to this region totalled €6.4bn last year, marking a 10pc rise and accounting for 22pc of total exports.

North America saw a 14pc increase in exports to €4.87bn in 2021, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all exports.

Digital technology firms exported goods and services worth €1.53bn, a one-fifth increase over the previous year, while exports in the engineering sector rose by 14pc to €1.82bn.

‘While the UK remains our largest trading partner, it is good to see that our strategy to grow exports in other key markets continues to pay dividends’

“These are really impressive results and a testament to the hard work and resilience of thousands of Irish entrepreneurs and their staff across the country,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD.

“It is quite remarkable that despite the headwinds we faced last year, not least the realisation of Brexit and the continuing effects of the pandemic, Irish business managed to have a record year for exports. Behind these figures today are thousands of jobs in every county in the country.”

Varadkar said he was glad to see diversification in the markets Irish businesses export to, including significant growth in the Eurozone and North America, as well as smaller markets such as the Middle East, Africa, India and Latin America.

“While the UK remains our largest trading partner, it is good to see that our strategy to grow exports in other key markets, especially the Eurozone, continues to pay dividends,” added Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy.

What lies ahead

Enterprise Ireland also released some figures from the first six months of this year.

Irish companies backed by the agency have secured 561 new overseas contracts, 85pc of which are outside the UK. Companies have also established 199 new overseas presences and 93 companies have entered new markets.

However, both Varadkar and Clancy warned that there are challenges ahead for the second half of the year, particularly with the growing impact of inflation, rising energy costs, continuing supply chain issues and the lack of experienced staff.

“We have plenty of challenges still ahead,” said Varadkar. “The global inflation crisis and Putin’s war on Ukraine are putting huge pressure on energy supplies, providing another impetus on business to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and do what they can to become more efficient with their resources.”

Companies are also facing challenges in the areas of climate action, sustainability and digitalisation, as well as in adapting to skills shortages. Only one-third of surveyed client companies said they have developed a climate action response for their business.

“These exceptionally strong export results follow on from the record number of net new jobs created in companies supported by Enterprise Ireland last year,” added Clancy.

“Our focus in the second half of the year is to work with clients to help them sustain and grow their employment, to support them through company investments to address sustainability and competitiveness issues and to continue to work with clients to build their export markets.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic