Value of exports rises 4% to €92.9bn with strong growth on cards for 2012


THE VALUE of Irish exports rose by 4 per cent in 2011 and went on to grow strongly in the first month of 2012, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office yesterday.

Export receipts reached €92.9 billion in 2011, up from €89.2 billion a year earlier.

While most exporting industries registered higher foreign sales last year, overall export growth continued to be driven by the pharmaceuticals and chemicals sector, which accounted for 60 per cent of total goods exports in 2011.

Last year the sector increased its total exports by almost €4 billion on 2010. This 7.2 per cent rate of annual increase brought this sector’s exports to €56 billion, equivalent to more than a third of Ireland’s annual gross domestic product. The food sector also enjoyed strong export growth last year, registering an increase in foreign sales of 11 per cent on 2010. The sector’s total exports stood at €7.9 billion last year.

Yesterday’s figures also included preliminary estimates for January 2012. They showed that exports were up 10 per cent year on year at €7.7 billion in seasonally adjusted terms.

Yesterday’s figures are for tangible goods only and do not include traded services. Almost half of Irish exports are accounted for by services.

The value of imported goods rose 5 per cent to €48.2 billion last year. Most imported goods are for use as inputs in production processes, reflecting the large size of Ireland’s manufacturing sector. Last year, such imports grew by 6.5 per cent to reach €23.2 billion.

Consumer goods are the second largest type of import by broad category. Despite the depressed state of consumer demand last year imports of consumer goods grew by 7.2 per cent on 2010. The total spent on imports of such goods last year was €15.9 billion.

Capital goods, such as plant and machinery, are historically the smallest of the three broad category of imports. Last year they contracted yet again.

A decline last year in the value of capital goods imports of 3.2 per cent on 2010 brought the total down to €5.1 billion. This was the lowest since 1997 and reflects weak investment conditions in the economy. In January 2012 total imports were up 3 per cent year on year, to stand at €4.4 billion.

The trade surplus – the difference between the value of exports and imports – reached a new record high in 2011, to stand at €44.7 billion, some €1.3 billion greater than the 2010 surplus.

Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham stockbrokers, said the trade figures were much better than expected. Conall Mac Coille, chief economist with Davy stockbrokers warned, however, that the impact of weak euro area demand is not yet evident.