Norfolk’s small firms need more export help

UK exports are being held back by a focus on more mature markets at the expense of larger, faster-growing economies, the British Chambers of Commerce said today.

A survey of more than 8,000 businesses found that small firms need more help to trade with high growth markets.

The EU remains the most popular destination for exports. When asked where they export to, 88pc of respondents sell their products or services to the EU. This compares to 47pc of businesses that export to BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), and 55pc to other Asian and Middle-Eastern markets such as Thailand and Saudi Arabia. However, while nearly three-quarters (73pc) of large firms trade with BRIC countries, only a third (32pc) of micro firms do business in these fast-growing markets.

Chief executive of the Norfolk Chamber Caroline Williams said:

'More and more Norfolk businesses are exporting their goods and services overseas, but many still face obstacles when trading internationally. Smaller firms in particular can find it difficult to break into newer, emerging markets, such as Brazil, India and China. These countries are growing more than traditional export partners like those in the eurozone, and so present real opportunities for businesses. However, small firms often lack the resource of larger firms, which is why they need more support to break into new markets. The government must provide more targeted help and advice for smaller firms to help them take their first step in trading with these fast-growing economies.'

She said that Norfolk Chamber had created a dedicated Export Zone on its website.

'Britain has the potential to be a great exporting nation. The government must work together with business to unlock the potential of Britain's exporters, who will in turn help to drive the economic recovery,' she added.

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The results showed businesses that belong to an international group or supply chain are 50pc more likely to see growth opportunities in the fastest-growing, emerging economies with the transport, manufacturing and education sectors are the most enthusiastic about opportunities for growth in developing economies.

Export sales among UK firms are hindered by several barriers, from languages and cultural differences to overseas public sector procurement rules. Overall, regulation and export tariffs top the list of barriers for exporters. Those trading in Africa quote political risk as the biggest concern.