Export firms forced to use credit cards to move goods, survey reveals

IRISH exporting firms are having to resort to using their credit cards, bank overdrafts and — in some cases — owners’ personal savings to fund the movement of their goods abroad, according to a new report.

The study — conducted by Dublin and Belfast-based company, Bibby Financial Services — offers a stark reality to conditions in Ireland’s export-focused business community; consistently held up by Government as the key path to recovery and growth for the national economy.

However, according to Bibby’s findings, 25% of respondents are relying on bank overdrafts to fund their export activity. Another 14% are using credit cards to cover costs, while 11% of firms confessed to having to dip into their personal savings to pay the relevant costs.

“The Government places a huge emphasis on the role of export activity in helping to bring about economic recovery. It is, therefore, worrying that our research findings show that Irish exporters are funding overseas activity with temporary and costly finance solutions in the form of overdrafts and credit cards,” said Bibby’s director Graham Byrne.

He added: “This trend needs to be urgently addressed — exporters using such methods are working on shaky ground.”

The Bibby survey questioned 350 businesses across Ireland, on their ease of access to export markets, and found that 39% currently find it too expensive to ship goods abroad, 46% cite a lack of support as a real barrier to exporting, and 33% claimed they lack enough knowledge on which export market to target.

Most firms, according to the report, receive “little or no help” from Government agencies when trading abroad.

According to Bibby, cost remains a real hurdle for exporters.

“The findings arguably show that there’s a need for a more concerted effort amongst lenders, government agencies, business groups and financial advisors to offer increased support to Irish SMEs — particularly around raising awareness of the funding options available to them and the support systems that exist,” added Mr Byrne.

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