THE VALUE of Irish exports fell by €749 million in December – causing Ireland’s trade surplus to plunge by 23 per cent.
Figures published this morning by the Central Statistics Office showed that the value of Irish exports for the month before last fell to €7,503 million – from €8,252 million in November.
Simultaneously, the value of imports rose by 8.4 per cent (€311 million) to over €4 billion for the first time in four months – meaning that the trade surplus, the excess of exports over imports, fell significantly.
That figure stood at €3,484 million for December – down by over a billion euro from €4,544 million in November.
The figures will come as a blow to Ireland’s efforts at finding an export-led economic recovery – particularly as forecasts expect spending power in Europe to decline in the coming year.
The surge in imports was not unprecedented – a similar spike was recorded in December 2010, indicating that the Christmas shopping season and the onset of the winter sales means a larger volume of foreign goods being sold in Ireland.
The drop in exports, however, is a worry – particularly when exports had actually grown by €261 million in December 2010 when compared to November of that year.
Figures for January to November inclusive showed that exports of medical and pharmaceutical products had increased by 11 per cent compared to the same period of 2010, while dairy exports were up by 26 per cent and meat exports by 15 per cent.
The exports of computer equipment was down by 11 per cent, or €446 million, however.
Ireland’s main export markets in the first 11 months were to the USA (23 per cent), Belgium (15 per cent) and Great Britain (14 per cent). Trade with the USA was up by over €1.1 billion in that period, while trade with both Britain and France was up by €480m each.