Exports hit record level of €208bn in 2022 on back of buoyant pharma trade

Latest trade numbers show strong performance was driven by pharma exports, which accounted for two thirds of total goods exports last year

The value of Irish goods exports hit a record €208 billion last year despite a significant slowdown in global growth linked to inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The headline figure was up by more than €42 billion on the previous year, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The strong performance was once again driven by pharma exports, which accounted for two thirds (€133.7 billion) of total goods exports in 2022.

The Republic is a global hub for pharma and medtech, playing host to 24 of the top 25 players, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Novartis and AbbVie. These companies continue to trade strongly despite the international headwinds.


The State’s exceptionally strong 12.2 per cent economic growth last year was driven in part by multinational exports.

The latest numbers show imports also reached a record level of €140 billion in 2022, up 35 per cent compared with 2021.

On a monthly basis, the unadjusted value of goods exports rose by €1.7 billion, or 13 per cent, to just under €15 billion in December while the unadjusted value of goods imports grew by €225 million, or 2 per cent, to €11.3 billion.

Exports to Britain for the year as a whole increased by 19 per cent to €17.1 billion compared with 2021 despite concerns that Brexit would dampen the Republic’s trade with its nearest neighbour. Exports from the Republic to Northern Ireland also rose by 31 per cent to €4.9 billion.

Imports from Britain increased by 55 per cent to €24 billion while imports from Northern Ireland grew by 32 per cent to €5.3 billion.

There was a sudden fall-off in trade with Britain in the early part of 2021 with firms on both sides stockpiling goods. However, since then trade has picked up strongly, albeit with some trade flows being displaced by trade between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.

In terms of exports as a whole, 30 per cent went to the US, 39 per cent to the EU, 8 per cent to Britain, 2 per cent to Northern Ireland and 20 per cent to the rest of the world.

Robert Purdue, FX Dealer of Ebury Partners Ireland, said: “The increase in the export of goods was primarily driven by a significant increase in medical and pharmaceutical products leaving the country. This sector continues to dominate the exports of goods as the industry flourishes in Ireland.”

“It marks an impressive year of goods trade for Ireland in volatile economic times and indicates that Irish businesses can look to the future with renewed optimism as economies stabilise,” he said.

Jarlath O’Keefe, partner in tax at Grant Thornton Ireland, said Britain remains an important player in Ireland’s export market, and this is evidenced by the fact that exports to Britain in 2022 were worth over €17.1 billion.

“However, the previous overreliance on the British market is no longer the case, given that exports to Great Britain accounted for 8 per cent of overall exports from Ireland which demonstrates that the Irish market is continually sourcing new markets for its products,” he said.

“The CSO figures for 2022 confirmed that there has been a significant increase in cross border trade on the island of Ireland in 2022 as the impact of Brexit continues. This is due in part to businesses adjusting their supply chains to avoid the administrative burden associated with importing goods from Britain,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see if these trends continue into 2023 as many of the ‘new’ supply chains become established business relationships or whether changes to the NI protocol could have an impact on cross border trade,” Mr O’Keefe said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times