Irish exports plunge 32% in April as pandemic hits world trade

Figures detail massive hit to traded sector from measures to contain virus

The value of Irish goods exports fell by 32 per cent in April as the Covid-19 pandemic stalled economic activity across the globe.

The latest trade figures show seasonally-adjusted goods exports decreased by €5.4 billion to €11.6 billion in April compared with the previous month. This constituted the biggest one-month decline on record.

The period coincided with lockdown measures to contain the virus here and in most of the State’s main trading partners.

It is understood that many companies had positioned their stock abroad in March in anticipation of potential difficulties in shipping in the coming months.


The figures also show goods imports decreased by €735 million to €5.8 billion leading to a trade surplus of €5.77 billion for April, 45 per cent less than the previous month.

Exports of organic chemicals declined by 14 per cent to €1.6 billion in April compared with the same month last year while exports of professional, scientific and controlling apparatus fell by 22 per cent to €446 million.

Amid the general decline, exports of medical and pharmaceutical products, a mainstay of the State’s export trade, increased by 6 per cent to €4.8 billion, accounting for 42 per cent of total exports.

Transport equipment

Imports of other transport equipment, including aircraft, meanwhile, decreased by €1.4 billion or 76 per cent to €432 million, while imports of petroleum decreased by 54 per cent to €211 million.

The European Union accounted for just over €4.2 billion or 36 per cent of total goods exports in April, up 37 per cent, of which €1.3 billion went to Belgium and €1.1 billion went to Germany.

Antwerp is one of the largest global drug redistribution hubs and receives most of the State’s pharma exports that are not destined for the United States.

The US was the single largest export destination, accounting for €3.8 billion or 33 per cent of total exports in April.

The figures show the EU accounted for €1.9 billion (33 per cent) of total goods imports in April, which is a decrease of €764 million (29 per cent) compared with April 2019.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times