EXPORTS from the North East have grown to a record high over the last 12 months, driven by strong growth at Nissan and the region’s booming engineering industry.
And overseas sales from the region seem likely to continue growing after hitting another growth spurt to a record £3.6 billion in the first quarter of this year.
The North East was one of only three regions in the country to show growth in the UK this year and the growth here contrasts with a 2.5% dip nationally over the January to March period.
The latest figures from HM Revenue & Customs show that exports from the North East rose to hit a record £13.75 billion in the 12 months to the end of March.
The value of exports was 7.5% on the same period a year ago in this region, only slightly behind the national average increase of 8.6%.
David Coppock, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) regional director said: “The region has enjoyed another excellent export performance this quarter – our highest recorded – and the total for the past 12 months is again at a record level for the region.”
Car manufacturing still makes up the lion’s share of the region’s exports with the continuing success of Nissan in Washington leading the industry’s overseas sales up 23% to £5.4 billion.
The plant, which now employs more than 6,200 workers, has not only seen growing popularity of its Juke and Qashqai models, of which 1,200 are now made every day, but with plans to make the new Invitation model on the site.
There were also increases in medicinal and pharmaceutical products of 2.4% to £2.38 billion, electrical machinery of 7.7% to £507m.
And the iron and steel industry saw a rise of 7.5% to £387m – a figure which is set to rise with the switching on in April of Thai steel giant SSI’s blast furnace in Redcar which will produce 3.6 million tonnes a year when it reaches full productivity.
Manufacturers of specialised machinery also performed well with the value of its exports up by 24% £835m and the value of power generating machinery up 20% to £936m over the 12 months.
The figures come after Chancellor George Osborne set a target of boosting British exports to £1 trillion by 2020 in his Budget speech in March.
And last November, Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the Export for Growth initiative, part of the National Challenge to increase the number of SMEs that export from the current one in five to one in four, bringing the country in line with the EU average.
The UKTI export agency is also trying to massively increase the number of firms involved in exports from the current figure of just over a thousand.
Coppock said: “Our aim is to help create 500 new exporters over the next two years and we will be spending the next quarter encouraging and supporting firms to do this.
“Overseas markets offer a host of opportunities and there continues to be a strong demand for North East products.”
One exporter is Middlesbrough- based engineering firm Plenary Project Solutions which has benefitted from various UKTI services and has recently opened an office in Singapore.
Its managing director Danny McGlade said: “With UKTI support we have now increased our presence in Singapore, Vietnam and Angola and have increasingly good prospects in Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and other countries closer to home.
“One of the greatest benefits of their support is that we now employ many more people abroad than we otherwise may have, as well as an increase in support staff here in the UK and we’re now also attracting high-value foreign companies to join us here in the North East helping to boost the local economy. If ever there was a win/win arrangement then this is it.”
The USA remains the largest single market for North East goods with a 12-month export value of £2.4 billion, an rise of 20% on previous 12 months.