Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics: Trade in Goods and Services Results 2020

Date published: 06 April 2022

The latest Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics (BESES) trade in goods and services estimates for 2020 were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Results from 2019 Northern Ireland Annual Business Inquiry Local Unit survey.
Results from 2019 Northern Ireland Annual Business Inquiry Local Unit survey.

The bulletin can be accessed on the NISRA website.

Main results

Total sales of goods decreased by 7.4 per cent

  • Total sales of goods were estimated to be worth £44.7 billion in 2020. Sales of goods decreased by 7.4 per cent over the year (£3.6 billion), compared to an increase of 4.1 per cent the previous year. Sales of goods represented two thirds (66.6 per cent) of total sales (£67.1 billion) in 2020.

Total purchases of goods decreased by 9.1 per cent

  • Purchases of goods were estimated to be worth £33.6 billion in 2020. Purchases of goods decreased by 9.1 per cent over the year (£3.3 billion), compared to an increase of 4.4 per cent the previous year. Purchases of goods represented 77.4 per cent of total purchases in 2020 (£43.7 billion).

Total sales of services decreased by 2.9 per cent

  • Sales of services represented 33.4 per cent of total sales (£67.1 billion) in 2020 and were estimated to be worth £22.4 billion. Sales of services decreased by 2.9 per cent over the year (£0.7 billion), compared to an increase of 2.9 per cent the previous year.

Total purchases of services increased by 0.8 per cent

  • Purchases of services represented 22.6 per cent of total purchases in 2020 and were estimated to be worth £9.8 billion. Purchases of services increased by 0.8 per cent over the year (£0.1 billion), compared to a decrease of 9.5 per cent the previous year.

Trade with Great Britain made up 16.3 per cent of total sales and 30.4 per cent of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to Great Britain made up 16.3 per cent (£10.9 billion) of total sales (£67.1 billion). Of this, 60.9 per cent (£6.7 billion) related to the sale of goods and 39.1 per cent (£4.3 billion) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from GB made up 30.4 per cent (£13.2 billion) of total purchases. Of this 80.2 per cent (£10.6 billion) was purchases of goods and 19.8 per cent (£2.6 billion) was purchases of services.

Trade with Ireland made up 6.1 per cent of total sales and 6.4 per cent of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to Ireland made up 6.1 per cent (£4.1 billion) of total sales (£67.1 billion). Of this, 74.8 per cent (£3.1 billion) related to the sale of goods and 25.2 per cent (£1.0 billion) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from Ireland made up 6.4 per cent (£2.8 billion) of total purchases. Of this 88.4 per cent (£2.5 billion) related to the import of goods and 11.6 per cent (£0.3 billion) to the import of services.

Trade with Rest of EU made up 3.3 per cent of total sales and 5.3 per cent of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to Rest of EU made up 3.3 per cent (£2.2 billion) of total sales (£67.1 billion). Of this, 83.7 per cent (£1.8 billion) related to the sale of goods and 16.3 per cent (£0.4 billion) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from REU made up 5.3 per cent (£2.2 billion) of total purchases. Of this 89.8 per cent (£2.0 billion) was import of goods and 10.2 per cent (£0.2 billion) was import of services.

Trade with Rest of World made up 6.0 per cent of total sales and 4.7 per cent of total purchases

  • Sales of goods and services to Rest of World made up 6.0 per cent (£4.0 billion) of total sales (£67.1 billion). Of this, 76.3 per cent (£3.0 billion) related to the sale of goods and 23.7 per cent (£0.9 billion) to the sale of services.
  • Purchases of goods and services from ROW made up 4.7 per cent (£2.0 billion) of total purchases. Of this 86.3 per cent (£1.8 billion) was import of goods and 13.7 per cent (£0.3 billion) was import of services.

Trade Balance

  • While trade balance usually refers to the difference between exports and imports, it is possible to derive a balance of trade for any domain of interest for which for both sales and purchases data exist. Bringing forward our imports publication to combine it with our exports of goods and services publication for the first time has allowed us to analyse the trade balance for various partners.
  • Total sales massively outweigh total purchases, with a difference of £23.7 billion. This is mainly driven by NI trade 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 ROW (£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

  • Where a large change in trade is recorded over the year, it is normal practice to query the data with businesses. In the vast majority of cases, the changes in trade over the year 2019 to 2020 were explained by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Releases

  • The next Northern Ireland Quarterly Ports Traffic report will be published on 8 April 2022.
  • The next Labour Market Report will be published on 12 April 2022.
  • The latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) Pensions Report will be published on 20 April 2022

Notes to editors: 

1. NISRA published its BESES results relating to the total sales of local businesses’ during 2020 to markets both within and outside Northern Ireland in December 2021. The latest figures published today provide:

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

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

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

4. These statistics were designated as National Statistics in March 2022 following a full assessment of the Broad Economy Sales and Exports 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, Economic & Labour Market Statistics Branch, on Tel: (028) 9052 9648 or at damian.buchanan@nisra.gov.uk

7. Follow NISRA on Twitter

8. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

9. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk

10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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