Some 8,500 manufacturing firms will be forced to close next year due to the economic crisis, the Athens Chamber of Small and Medium-Sized Industries (BEA) and the MARC polling company suggested yesterday. The manufacturing sector has already seen many layoffs among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with one in four companies already having dismissed some of their staff. Now the MARC survey predicts the layoffs to increase by another 18,000 people. The survey is mostly based on facts and not on estimates, unlike a previous survey for BEA last November, so it is much more accurate in depicting the true dimensions of the crisis. «We find ourselves in the middle of a storm which is showing no signs of abating,» said the CEO of MARC, Thomas Gerakis. Over three in four companies (76.7 percent) stated that they are feeling the effects of the crisis, with only 4.6 percent stating they are unaffected. About 36.6 percent of respondents, which amounts to about 17,000 enterprises, said it is possible their company will be unable to operate in 2010. This is highly likely for 18.4 percent of them, amounting to 8,500 enterprises out of the 45,000 active members registered with BEA. Although there are no concrete figures on the number of firms forced to close due to the crisis, data regarding new entries and enterprises taken off the BEA register speak volumes: In the first half of 2009, there were 20 percent more enterprises removed from the register than in the same period in 2008, while new entrants were also fewer by 8 percent on a yearly basis. Turnover has also shown a severe decline: Five out of six companies (84 percent) have recorded a drop in sales volume since last year, against just 4 percent that have noted a rise. The average drop in turnover at small and medium-sized enterprises is 35.36 percent, against 33.2 percent six months earlier. Gerakis added that one of the biggest problems for BEA members is delay in the repayment of debt by customers.