Exports by companies based in northern Greece declined in 2002, data published yesterday by the Association of Northern Greek Exporters (SEVE) show. According to SEVE, the sales of all northern Greek companies that are active exporters totaled 6.76 billion euros in 2002, a 5.9 percent decline from 2001. As expected, the greatest export activity is from companies based in Thessaloniki prefecture, followed by companies based in Larissa, Kastoria and Kavala prefectures. The biggest export markets are Germany, Cyprus, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Italy and Albania. The exports by northern Greek firms represent 40.7 percent of total Greek exports, the SEVE data showed. Imports by northern Greek companies kept declining during the years 1997-2002. At the same time, Greece’s total imports rose by an average of 6.9 percent annually. At least northern Greek exporters have begun to invest significantly in their firms: investment rose 8.1 percent in 2002 alone. Fewer start-ups The data are the results of a survey conducted by SEVE and in which 2,048 companies responded. These companies employ a total of 92,000 people. Most of them (61.8 percent of the total) were founded in the 1980s, while 32.3 percent were founded after 1990. However, the number of business start-ups has declined in recent years. Of the abovementioned 32.3 percent of companies founded after 1990, 15.9 percent were set up during 1991-94, 13.6 percent during 1995-1999 and only 2.8 percent since 2000. On the other hand, there has been a significant improvement in the technical infrastructure of northern Greek companies, which are increasingly turning to new technologies to enhance productivity. In 2002, 41 percent of the surveyed firms had their own website and 24.3 percent had acquired some quality certificate, mostly from the International Standardization Organization. In a previous survey conducted in 2000, only 22.1 percent had their own website, while just 15.5 percent guaranteed the quality of their products with some sort of certificate.