Republic set for record trade surplus after spike in exports

Latest CSO figures show January-May balance running at €3.3bn above last year

Seasonally adjusted goods exports increased in May by €644 million, or 7%, to €10.2 billion, compared with April

Seasonally adjusted goods exports increased in May by €644 million, or 7%, to €10.2 billion, compared with April

 

The Republic is on course for a record trade surplus this year as new figures showed the value of goods exports for the first five months of 2017 increased by 10 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show that during the period January to May 2017, the value of goods exports was €51.2 billion, an increase of €4.7 billion, or 10 per cent, when compared with the first five months of 2016.

Seasonally adjusted goods exports increased in May by €644 million, or seven per cent, to €10.2 billion, compared with April.

Seasonally adjusted goods imports decreased by €519 million, or eight per cent, to €5.9 billion.

This led to an increase of €1.2 billion, or 37 per cent, in the seasonally adjusted trade surplus to €4.3 billion in May 2017 compared with the same period last year.

Taking the first five months of the year cumulatively, the trade balance is running at €3.3 billion above that of the same time last year.

Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said “another record surplus” of about €49-50 billion for the year “now looks on the cards”.

The increase in exports was mostly related to medical and pharmaceutical products, which increased by €604 million, or 28 per cent, to €2.8 billion in May 2017 compared to May 2016.

‘Dented’

Mr McQuaid said business and consumer confidence had been “dented to some degree, though not in major way” by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“Still, the uncertainty over the implications of Britain’s decision to leave the EU suggests risks on the external trade front remain elevated going forward, especially for food exporters,” he said.

“The movement in the euro/sterling exchange rate will be critical in this regard. One can only speculate as to how Brexit will impact Ireland in the coming months and years, but there is clearly likely to be a negative impact on trade.”

Mr McQuaid added that the trade outlook going forward “remains clouded in uncertainty”.

Exports of food and live animals increased by a quarter, or €195 million, to €974 million.

Exports of office machines and automatic data processing machines increased by €80 million, or 37 per cent, to €298 million over the same comparative period.

Exports

Exports to the UK increased by €154 million, or 14 per cent, to €1.2 billion in May 2017 compared with May 2016. The main increase was in the exports of chemicals and related products.

Exports to the UK increased in January to May by €732 million, or 14 per cent, compared with the first five months of 2016.

The EU accounted for €5.3 billion - more than half - of total goods exports in May 2017, which was an increase of €492 million, or 10 per cent, compared with May 2016. Exports to Belgium were €1.3 billion, while Germany got €791 million.

The USA was the main non-EU destination accounting for €2.4 billion – almost a quarter – of total exports in May 2017.

Minister for Enterprise Frances Fitzgerald said the increase in the value of goods exports in May was “very positive and welcome news”.

“The Government is committed to facilitating the development of a strong exporting sector and exporting companies are contributing hugely to the performance of the Irish economy,” she said.