Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics 2018 and Supply-Use Tables 2016

Date published: 19 December 2019

The latest Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics (BESES) for 2018 were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics
Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics

Main results

Total value of external sales decreased by 1.1 per cent:

  • The total value of external sales by Northern Ireland (NI) companies was estimated to be worth £21.7 billion in 2018. This represents a decrease of 1.1 per cent (£0.2 billion) over the year in current prices, compared to a fall in the previous year of 7.8 per cent. The 2016 figure of £23.8 billion was the highest recorded external sales figure since the survey began in 2011 and the falls in 2017 and 2018 are the first recorded decreases in external sales.

External sales are comprised of:

  • sales to Great Britain (GB) plus
  • exports (sales to Ireland (IE), the Rest of Europe (REU) and the Rest of the World (ROW))

Sales to GB decreased by £1.1 billion to £10.6 billion, down 9.3 per cent over the year. This is the second consecutive fall in sales to GB.

The annual decrease in sales to GB (and hence external sales) is driven by a substantial decline in the Food, Beverages and Tobacco subsector.

Exports increased by £837 million (8.1 per cent) over the year, to £11.2 billion, following a 7.1 per cent increase (£685 million) in the value of total exports in 2017. This is the highest level of export sales on survey record.

Increase in sales to main export markets:

  • Exports to IE increased in 2018 by £330 million or 8.6% to £4.2 billion. This follows an increase of 14.9% in 2017. IE remains our single largest export market.
  • Exports to the REU (EU, excluding IE) increased over the year by £425 million (20.9%) to £2.5 billion.
  • Exports to the ROW (all countries outside the EU) increased by £82 million (1.8%) over the year to £4.5 billion.
  • Sales within Northern Ireland increased by 5.7%:

The BESES shows that sales within NI increased by £2.5 billion to £46.7 billion, up 5.7 per cent over the year to the highest level on survey record. When added to the value of external sales, total sales by NI companies increased by 3.5 per cent (£2.3 billion) in 2018 to £68.4 billion.

Supply-Use Tables for Northern Ireland

Today NISRA also published experimental statistics on the structure and performance of the NI economy in 2016. Revised figures for 2015 were also released.

The latest Economic Accounts provide the most complete description of the structure and characteristics of the local economy currently available to inform decision making. 2016 is the latest year for which all the necessary Accounts data are available. The figures include Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates for 2015 and 2016 and the Supply-Use Tables (SUTs) on which they are based.

Key results - SUTs 2016          

The SUTs estimate that GDP generated by businesses in NI was £43.9 billion in 2016, up 5.2 per cent from 2015 (£41.8 billion).

In 2016, the total use of goods and services was estimated to be £102.4 billion. This includes “Intermediate Consumption” (goods and services used up in the production process) by industries of £33.9 billion and “Final Use” of £68.5 billion. The latter figure represents the total value of expenditure by Consumers and Government plus the value of Investment, external sales to GB and exports to the ROW.

In 2016, the Household sector (including non-profit organisations) accounts for the greatest component of total “Final Use” of products in NI. Expenditure by the household sector (including non-profit organisations) was estimated to be £28.4 billion (41 per cent) of “Final Use”, showing the reliance of the local economy on consumer spending.

Other Releases

The next Labour Market Report will be published on 21 January 2020.

The NI Composite Economic Index and Quarterly Construction Enquiry are scheduled for publication on 16 January 2020.

The Index of Production and Index of Services reports for Quarter 3 2019 will be published on 19 March 2020.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The BESES series is designated as experimental statistics under the Code of Practice for Official Statistics reflecting the fact that they are still under development.
  2. This release provides information on the value of sales and exports generated by businesses in NI. Figures for 2018 are provisional and may be subject to revision. This information is consistent with results for the non-financial business economy published by NISRA in November 2019 (Annual Business Inquiry (ABI)) at: Annual Business Enquiry
  3. The full BESES publication, associated tables and definitions of the methodology can be found at: Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics
  4. Further information on the Supply-Use Tables for NI along with the full publication and associated tables can be found at: Economic Accounts Project
  5. The Code of Practice for Official Statistics recommends releasing statistical work in progress, such as experimental statistics. These are defined as “new official statistics undergoing evaluation that are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in their development and as a means to build in quality at an early stage”.
  6. For media enquiries, please contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604 or Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 90378110.
  7. General information regarding trade statistics can be obtained from Damian Buchanan, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch, on Tel: (028) 9052 9648 or at Information regarding SUTs can be obtained from Suzanne Bradley, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch, on Tel: (028) 9052 9505 or at
  8. Follow NISRA on Twitter @NISRA.

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