Goods exports fell 6pc to €197bn last year, CSO says, on back of computer and pharma dip

Irish goods exports amounted to over €197bn last year, a fall of 6pc on the record high achieved in 2022 but well ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

Total goods imports were down by a smaller amount, falling 1pc on 2022 levels to just under €140bn.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) data shows falling sales of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and computer chips, mainly to the US and China, were behind the slowdown in exports.

By contrast, exports to the UK grew by 2pc in 2023 to €17.6bn, with chemicals, machinery, food and drink all seeing an upturn.

The most significant drop in exports was a 38.8pc fall in electrical machinery, which includes semiconductors. Office machines, including computers, saw a smaller drop of 9.4pc year on year. Organic chemicals sales dropped by 20pc.

The fall in medical and pharmaceutical products, which are by far Ireland’s largest export, making up almost 40pc of sales in 2023, was less dramatic.

Sales dropped by 2.9pc compared to 2022.

Food and live animal exports fell by 1.2pc year on year, with exports to Britain, Northern Ireland and the US rising slightly but offset by a fall in sales to the EU, China and the rest of the world.

Sales of transport equipment including aircraft, soared by over 70pc, though the sector makes up a smaller part of Ireland’s overall trade and is traditionally volatile.

Imports, meanwhile, were up in several categories, rising just over 5pc for food and live animals and chemicals and related products (including pharmaceutical and medical products).

Imports of food from Britain were up, while imports of food from Northern Ireland were down slightly. Food imports from the EU were also up.

Carol Lynch, a partner in trade experts BDO, said total goods exports last year were still €30bn higher than they were in 2021, while exports of medical and pharmaceutical products were up 9pc in the month of December, compared to December 2022.

She said an increase in chemicals and pharma imports last year means exports of the same products are likely to increase in future.

However, she said the “significant reduction” in semiconductor exports was likely to continue this year “due to the well documented on going geo-political issues, US sensitivity with exports to China and increasingly strengthened US export control rules”.

Ireland’s biggest goods export partner last year was the EU (led by Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands), making up 41pc of total sales. The US made up 28pc of exports, while the UK made up 11.4pc and China made up just under 5pc.

Ireland’s single biggest import partner country was the UK, making up just under 19pc of imports, followed by the US (16pc) and France (12pc).

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