Trade surplus reaches record high


The trade surplus reached a new record high in 2011, as exports grew by 4 per cent over the year.

According to new data from the Central Statistics Office, the trade surplus widened to €44.7 billion last year, some €1.3 billion greater than the 2010 surplus.

Exports grew to €92.9 billion in 2011, up from €89.2 billion a year earlier, with exports of meat and dairy products showing marked increases.

Imports rose 5 per cent to €48.2 billion last year, driven by increases in imports of medical and pharmaceutical products, as well as oil and organic chemicals.

Preliminary estimates for January 2012 show that exports were up 10 per cent year-on-year at €7.7 billion, while imports were up 3 per cent at €4.4 billion.

Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham stockbrokers, said this morning’s trade figures were much better than expected. He said the January 2012 data indicated that another record trade surplus could be on the cards again this year, despite the difficult global backdrop.

However Conall Mac Coille, chief economist with Davy, warned the impact of weak euro area demand is not yet evident. “A key risk for the Irish economy is that export growth may slow given the slowdown in the euro area,” he said.

He also said today’s trade data comes with a health warning, as it gives no detail on the traded services sector, which accounts for half of Irish exports. “So we can infer little from today’s trade data release about the strength of the export sector ahead of next week’s GDP [gross domestic product] data for quarter four,” he said.