Ireland's trade surplus reaches all-time high in March at €4.36bn


THE VALUE of goods exports fell in March on a month earlier, but rose on a quarterly basis, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office.

In the first three months of the year, the value of goods sold abroad, when measured on a seasonally adjusted basis, stood at just under €23 billion.

This was the second highest quarterly figure in recent years.

However, yesterday’s numbers suggest the very strong growth in exports recorded over much of last year has ended (see chart).

More detailed figures on the composition of trade are available only up to February. They show that chemicals and pharmaceuticals are dominating exports to a growing extent. In the first two months of the year they accounted for 63 per cent of the total.

Growth in the sector has been strong and consistent. In February yet another monthly record was reached when foreign sales of all forms of chemicals and pharmaceuticals reached €4.9 billion.

The value of food exports stood at €590 million in February. This was an increase on January but followed two consecutive months of sharp declines. Over the course of 2010 the value of food exports grew strongly, reflecting in large part the rise in international commodity prices. Ireland is a net exporter of food.

Ireland’s trade surplus (the difference between exports and imports) reached an all-time high in March, standing at €4.36 billion. This helps in reducing the economy’s overall imbalance in payments to and from the rest of the world.

Seasonally adjusted imports in March stood at €3.65 billion, less than half the value of exports. It is unusual for a country that does not export large quantities of commodities to have such a large imbalance between exports and imports.

Imports remain far below the peaks registered in 2007, reflecting much lower demand for consumer and investment goods.