Irish exports surge to record €160bn in 2020 despite pandemic

Exports of medical and pharmaceutical products drive record performance

The value of Irish goods exports hit a record €160.8 billion last year despite the global economic slump.

This was an increase of €8.3 billion (5 per cent) on 2019 and comes on the back of a surge in exports of medical and pharmaceutical products.

The latest trade numbers from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the value of pharma exports rocketed by 25 per cent to €62 billion last year, accounting for 39 per cent of all Irish goods exports in 2020.

The Republic is a global hub for pharma and medtech, playing host to 24 of the top 25 biggest players, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Novartis and AbbVie.


These companies have been ramping up production to meet soaring demand for medicines and products connected with the treatment of Covid-19.

The latest figures show the value of imports fell by 6 per cent last year to €85 billion.

This generated a record trade surplus of €75 billion for 2020.

Imports of other transport equipment, including aircraft were valued at €12.7 billion last year, or 15 per cent of total imports. This was a decrease of 41 per cent on the 2019 level of imports.

Petroleum imports, meanwhile, fell by 40 per cent €2.6billion on foot of the travel restrictions, the CSO said.

For the month of December, the value of seasonally adjusted goods exports decreased by €2 billion (14 per cent) to €12.5 billion, the figures show, while the value of goods imports decreased by 19 per cent to €7 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis.


The value of exports to Britain in 2020 fell by 9 per cent to €12.4 million and accounted for 8 per cent of total Irish exports.

Imports from Britain totalled €17.8 billion, a decrease of 5 per cent, when compared with 2019, meaning the Republic ran a trade deficit of €5.4 billion with Britain in 2020. Imports from Britain accounted for 21 per cent of total Irish imports in 2020.

The EU accounted for €63.9 billion (40 per cent ) of total exports in 2020, an increase of €7.2 billion on 2019. Within this there were exports of €17.9 billion to Belgium and €17.4 billion to Germany.

The US was the largest export destination in 2020, accounting for €49.9 billion or 31 per cent of total exports.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times