Coronavirus: Irish exports decline by over €2bn in February

Exports of organic chemicals, medical and pharmaceutical products slide, figures show

Central Statistics Office figures show goods exports reduced by nearly €2.2 billion (-16 per cent ) to €11.6 billion in February. File Photograph: The Irish Times

Irish goods exports dropped by almost €2.2 billion in February as coronavirus, still largely confined to Asia back then, hit global trade.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show goods exports fell by 16 per cent to €11.6 billion in February.

The decline was led by large drops in exports of organic chemicals, down 19 per cent to €2.3 billion, and medical and pharmaceutical products, down 14 per cent to €3.4 billion.

The figures show seasonally adjusted goods imports increased by 4 per cent to €7.7 billion. This led to a reduction of €2.5 billion (-39 per cent) in the seasonally adjusted trade surplus to just under €4 billion in February .


The hit to global trade from the coronavirus is expected to be significant. The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that the world is likely to lose a cumulative $9 trillion (€8.2 trillion) in output over two years – greater than the combined gross domestic product of Germany and Japan.


The CSO figures show exports of electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances increased by €383 million (73 per cent) to €905 million during February. The goods export numbers represent only half of the Republic’s export trade. Service exports, which include the State’s large IT sector, are accounted for in separate data.

The CSO said the European Union accounted for €4.8 billion (42 per cent) of total goods exports in February, of which €1.4 million went to Belgium and €1.2 billion went to Germany. Antwerp in Belgium is a global hub for the distribution of pharmaceuticals.

As the United Kingdom exited the EU on January 31st, the data compares EU trade excluding the UK for both periods for comparative purposes, said the CSO.

Exports to Britain fell by 6 per cent to €1 billion in February and accounted for 9 per cent of total goods exports.

The United States was the main non-EU destination, accounting for just under €3 billion (25 per cent) of total exports in February.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times