Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics

The BESES is an experimental annual measure of local businesses’ sales to markets outside Northern Ireland.

Estimates of the number of businesses selling to markets outside NI are also presented. The latest estimates remain designated as ‘experimental’ to reflect the fact that they are under development.

Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics 2018 - published 19 December 2019

Headline Results 

  • Total sales by companies in Northern Ireland (NI) were estimated to be worth £68.4 billion in 2018, an increase of 3.5% (£2.3 billion) over the calendar year.
  • Sales within NI increased by £2.5 billion to £46.7 billion, up 5.7% over the year and are at the highest level since the survey commenced in 2011.
  • Sales to Great Britain (GB) decreased by £1.1 billion to £10.6 billion, down 9.3% over the year. 
  • Sales to markets outside the UK (exports) increased by £837 million (8.1%) over the year, to £11.2 billion.
  • Sales to all markets outside NI (external sales) i.e. GB sales plus exports, fell by £241 million (1.1%) to £21.7 billion, and accounted for almost a third of total sales in 2018 (31.7%).
  • This is the second consecutive year of falling external sales. These falls continue to be driven by a substantial decline in the Food, Beverages and Tobacco subsector.
  • Exports to Ireland (IE) increased by £330 million (8.6%) over the year, to £4.2 billion.
  • Exports to the Rest of the EU (EU, excluding IE) increased over the year by £425 million (20.9%) to £2.5 billion. Exports to the Rest of the World (ROW) increased by £82 million (1.8%) over the year, to £4.5 billion.
  • Trade estimates split by District Council Area have been produced for the first time.

Draft Programme for Government

The annual rate of external sellers (i.e. the proportion of all survey-eligible businesses that sell outside NI), has been selected as an indicator in the draft Programme for Government (PfG) Framework and NICS Outcome Delivery Plan 2018/19. It is used alongside a number of other indicators to inform progress against Outcome 1, prospering through a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy.

The external sales rate (ie; the proportion of all survey-eligible businesses that sell outside NI) increased from 22.9% in 2015 to 24.8% in 2017.

https://www.nisra.gov.uk/statistics/programme-government

Current publications and tables

EU Exit analysis

Comparison with HMRC Regional Trade Statistics

BESES estimates are not directly comparable with HMRC Regional Trade Statistics due to methodological differences.

Background information

Archive data

Mailing list

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Related statistics

Manufacturing Sales and Exports Survey

The annual NI MSES provides information on the value of sales and exports generated by all businesses classified within the manufacturing industry in NI. 

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Exporting Northern Ireland Services

Based on information collected via the ITIS and supplemented with information from MSES and NIABI.

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Most recent documents


Contacts for Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics