Exporting activity is at its highest level since 2007, with Wales experiencing the highest increase over the last quarter, according to the latest British Chamber of Commerce (BBC) and DHL trade confidence index.

The report, released yesterday (23 July), measures UK exporting activity and business confidence and shows that export orders and sales have increased, with confidence levels in both future turnover and future profitability also remaining high.

The export index revealed a 2.85% increase in exports in the UK compared with Q1 2013 – the highest since Q3 2007 – but Wales saw the highest increase, with a rise of 11.53%. The next highest was the West Midlands (up 7.84%), followed by the East of England (up 6.15%) and the South West (up 6.01%). The biggest fall was in Northern Ireland (down 14.88%), while the only other area to record a fall was the East Midlands (down 0.54%).

Wales also experienced a 5% increase in exports compared to Q2 last year, although this not the highest annual increase, with the South West (10.96%), East of England (9.02%) and the West Midlands (8.42%) experiencing the biggest hikes, while London and Yorkshire & Humberside also saw increases of over 5%. Again, Northern Ireland recorded the biggest fall, down 22.24%.

The survey revealed responses from more than 1,700 businesses, of which 48% of exporters said their export sales increased in Q2 2013, compared to 10% who said that they decreased.

Export orders for service sector businesses increased for 50% of firms to the highest figure on record, and 44% of manufacturing firms increased their export orders resulting in the highest figure since Q1 2012.

Elgan Morgan, of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are extremely pleased with the results of the Export Index in relation to Wales.

“This reflects what we have been seeing on the ground over the last few months with businesses telling us that they are receiving more orders from overseas.

“The South Wales Chamber of Commerce is working with many other organisations, such as Wales World Wide, to encourage more businesses to consider exporting. Research has shown that businesses that export are more resilient and perform better.”

The index number, which is calculated from the volume of export documents issued to businesses by Chambers of Commerce, now stands at 11.12. This represents an increase of 2.85% on Q1 2013 and is 2.94% higher compared with the same quarter last year.

And, nearly a third of firms (31%) said they expected to increase their staff this year, up from 28% in Q1 2013.

Commenting on the report’s results, Phil Couchman, CEO of DHL Express UK and Ireland, said: “These historically positive results show how buoyant the SME spirit is, even in challenging times. But we must not lose sight of the reality, which is that not nearly enough small businesses in the UK are even testing the waters of international trade.

“In order to encourage them, we must collectively smooth their path by providing local insight, guidance and global expertise, enabling them to sell their wares to the world. Currently, there are a number of opportunities for exporters within high growth markets – Croatia’s accession to the EU this month means increased opportunities for international trade due to the simplification of export and import customs legislation.

“Our exporters require support from the government, from trade bodies, and fellow businesses to invest in new markets, if they are to lead the country back to sustainable economic growth.”