General statistics on sales and exports of the economy of Northern Ireland: results of trade in goods and services 2020

The latest estimates of trade in goods and services from the General Economics Sales and Exports Statistics (BESES) for 2020 have been released today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency ( NISRA).

Results of the 2019 Annual Survey of Local Business Survey Units in Northern Ireland.

The bulletin can be viewed on the NISRA website.

Principle results

Total sales of goods fell 7.4%

  • Total goods sales were estimated at £44.7bn in 2020. Goods sales were down 7.4% on the year (£3.6bn), compared to an increase of 4.1 % the previous year. Sales of goods accounted for two-thirds (66.6%) of total sales (£67.1bn) in 2020.

Total purchases of goods decreased by 9.1%

  • Purchases of goods were estimated at £33.6bn in 2020. Purchases of goods fell 9.1% on the year (£3.3bn), compared to an increase of 4.4% the previous year. Purchases of goods accounted for 77.4% of total purchases in 2020 (£43.7bn).

Total service sales decreased by 2.9%

  • Service sales accounted for 33.4% of total sales (£67.1bn) in 2020 and were estimated at £22.4bn. Services sales were down 2.9% for the year (£0.7bn), compared to a 2.9% increase the previous year.

Total service purchases increased by 0.8%

  • Service purchases accounted for 22.6% of total purchases in 2020 and were estimated at £9.8 billion. Purchases of services increased by 0.8% over the year (£0.1bn), compared to a 9.5% drop the previous year.

Trade with Great Britain accounted for 16.3% of total sales and 30.4% of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to Britain accounted for 16.3% (£10.9bn) of total sales (£67.1bn). Of this amount, 60.9% (£6.7bn) related to the sale of goods and 39.1% (£4.3bn) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services in Britain accounted for 30.4% (£13.2bn) of total purchases. Of this amount, 80.2% (£10.6 billion) corresponded to purchases of goods and 19.8% (£2.6 billion) to purchases of services.

Trade with Ireland accounted for 6.1% of total sales and 6.4% of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to Ireland accounted for 6.1% (£4.1 billion) of total sales (£67.1 billion). Of this amount, 74.8% (£3.1bn) was related to the sale of goods and 25.2% (£1.0bn) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from Ireland accounted for 6.4% (£2.8bn) of total purchases. Of this amount, 88.4% (£2.5bn) was related to the import of goods and 11.6% (£0.3bn) to the import of services.

Trade with the rest of the EU represented 3.3% of total sales and 5.3% of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to the rest of the EU accounted for 3.3% (£2.2bn) of total sales (£67.1bn). Of this amount, 83.7% (£1.8bn) related to the sale of goods and 16.3% (£0.4bn) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from REU accounted for 5.3% (£2.2bn) of total purchases. Of this amount, 89.8% (£2.0bn) were imports of goods and 10.2% (£0.2bn) were imports of services.

Trade with the rest of the world represented 6.0% of total sales and 4.7% of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to the rest of the world accounted for 6.0% (£4.0bn) of total sales (£67.1bn). Of this amount, 76.3% (£3.0bn) related to the sale of goods and 23.7% (£0.9bn) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from the RDM accounted for 4.7% (£2.0 billion) of total purchases. Of this amount, 86.3% (£1.8 billion) corresponded to imports of goods and 13.7% (£0.3 billion) to imports of services.

Trade balance

  • While the trade balance generally refers to the difference between exports and imports, it is possible to derive a trade balance for any area of ​​interest for which there are data on sales and purchases. Bringing our publication on imports forward to combine it for the first time with our publication on exports of goods and services has enabled us to analyze the trade balance of the various partners.
  • Total sales massively exceed total purchases, with a difference of £23.7 billion. This is mainly due to NI trading where sales are worth £45.9 billion and purchases are worth £23.1 billion, resulting in a surplus of £22.8 billion. NI has a trade surplus with IE of £1.3 billion and with the rest of the world (£2.0 billion), and a trade deficit with GB (£2.3 billion) and REU (0 £.1 billion).

Effect of COVID-19 and EU exit on trade

  • When a significant variation in trade is recorded during the year, it is customary to query the data from companies. In the vast majority of cases, the evolution of trade in the year 2019 to 2020 is explained by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other releases

  • The next quarterly report on port traffic in Northern Ireland will be published on 8 April 2022.
  • The next labor market report will be released on April 12, 2022.
  • The latest report on pensions from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) will be released on April 20, 2022

Notes to editors:

1. NISRA released its BESES results for total local business sales in 2020 in markets inside and outside Northern Ireland in December 2021. The latest figures released today provide:

  • further disaggregation of these results by value of goods and services sold.
  • estimates of the value of goods and services purchased by NI companies in 2020.

2. In response to user demand, NISRA has advanced the publication of goods and services purchases/imports data by two months to allow these figures to be published alongside our external exports/sales figures of goods and services for the first time.

3. This information is also consistent with the non-financial business economy results published by NISRA in November 2021 (Annual Business Inquiry)

4. These statistics were designated as national statistics in March 2022 following a comprehensive assessment of the economy’s general sales and export statistics against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

5. More detailed statistical information, including data tables and definitions of the methodology used, is available by visiting the NISRA website.

6. General information can be obtained from Damian Buchanan, Economics and Labor Market Statistics Branch, on tel: (028) 9052 9648 or [email protected]

7. Follow NISRA on Twitter

8. To keep up to date with Department news, you can follow us on the following social networks:

9. For media enquiries, contact the Department of Economy Press Office at [email protected]

10. The Executive Information Service runs an after-hours service for media inquiries only between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. Monday to Friday and on weekends and public holidays. The permanent press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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