By Daniel Hunter

A renewed call to action has been issued to the region’s firms as latest figures released by HM Revenue & Customs this week show that exports from the South West fell in 2012.

In 2012 the value of exports from the South West totalled £12.3 billion - 1.16 percent drop from the previous year. However, exporting successively increased in the last two quarters of the year across the region, with the fourth quarter of 2012 exceeding those in the fourth quarter of 2011.

And while the number of exporters decreased in most of England’s regions between Quarter 4 2011 and Quarter 4 in 2012, the number of South West active exporters increased by 3.7 percent.

Russell Jones, Regional Director for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in the South West said that while the annual fall was disappointing, the improvements in the last two quarters showed signs of encouragement.

He also urged the region’s firms to renew their efforts and take advantage of the support available to businesses via UKTI’s services: “It is disappointing that we have seen a dip in exports from 2011 to 2012. However, it is reassuring to see the value of the region’s exports and the number of exporters increase in the last two quarters. But we cannot afford to be complacent and there is still room for improvement.

“I would advise companies to renew their efforts to grow their business overseas and take advantage of the many opportunities out there while UKTI continues to work hard with its many partners to help ensure they have all the support they need to succeed."

According to the latest quarterly figures released on 14 March, the region’s exports account for 5.9 percent of England’s total.

While most regions have seen an increase in the number of exports to non-EU countries, the South West continues to trade the most with EU countries with the region’s top partners being Germany and France. Machinery and transport equipment, and manufactured goods continue to be the most exported commodities from the region, while the South West is one of only two regions with ‘Food and Live’ commodities in their top five export goods.

“As a region we are heavily dependent on exporting to EU countries but there are so many more commercial opportunities in emerging and high growth markets to be taken advantage of. These markets, including Brazil, China and Indonesia, are undoubtedly where the prize of prosperity lies and UKTI plans to organise visits to these lucrative countries, amongst others, in the next year," Russell added.

“Although the prospect of trading internationally can be daunting, support organisations can play an instrumental role in helping businesses flourish and mitigate the risk of exporting by providing access to essential knowledge and expertise. Exporting can open so many doors, so once you start, there’s no limit to where you can go.”

As part of its efforts to further help the region’s businesses, UKTI will be hosting a special Export Week dedicated to High Growth Markets on 13-17 May, with a packed programme of events being planned across the South West.

'Open to Export' is a UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) initiative in partnership with hibu plc (formerly Yell Group).

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