More than 70 per cent of exporters reported an increase in exports in 2014 compared with 62 per cent last year while nearly 85 per cent expect exports to rise in 2015, a new survey shows.

The Export Ireland Survey, by the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) and Grant Thornton, found that labour-related costs and access to finance remain the main challenges for the sector.

Nearly a quarter of survey respondents experienced difficulty accessing finance although 62 per cent reported an improvement in accessing funds over the past year.

More than 25 per cent also said they were required to give a personal guarantee when seeking finance from their bank over the past year.

The survey also found that nearly three-quarters of exports firms have targeted new markets compared with 69.7 per cent in 2013.

“While the UK and US are important markets, growth in the euro zone, where over 40 per cent of our exports go, remains increasingly uncertain,” said IEA chief executive Simon McKeever. “We must do more to diversify our export risk to focus on new and higher growth markets.”