Food exports is only sector to record growth so far this year
THE country's trade surplus narrowed sharply in October.
The surplus shrank 8pc in October while unadjusted data for the first 10 months of 2013 shows that exports are down by 6.4pc against imports so far this year to date.
The trade surplus for the year so far is €31.8bn, down 12.2pc on the same period last year.
The latest data showed little reason for cheer, bank and investment specialists Investec said.
The figures, which show the positive balance between the country's exports and imports, show that the amount we are exporting fell against the amount we are importing, from €3.21bn to €2.97bn.
Merchandise export volumes fell by 5.7pc, while imports slipped by 1.3pc, year on year.
"Drilling into the various sectors shows that this weakness is broadbased," said Investec's analyst Philip O'Sullivan.
"Of the nine key export categories, only one (food, which is up by 7.2pc year on year) has recorded growth in the year to date compared to the same period last year.
"The picture is little better on the import side, where three categories (food, up 7.1pc year on year, chemicals rising 6.7pc and manufactured goods up 1.7pc) have seen an improvement in the year to date," Mr O'Sullivan said.
The "chemicals and related products" category of the CSO figures accounted for 59pc of total Irish merchandise exports so far in the year, showing its importance for this index.
"Year-to-date exports here are running 8.8pc below year-earlier levels due to what has become known as the 'patent cliff'," Mr O'Sullivan said.
The overall drop in exports in this area is responsible for circa 80pc of the total decline in exports year on year.
"However, as the 'patent cliff' effect began to manifest itself toward the end of last year, we would expect to see less of a drag on headline exports in 2014," he said.
The figures reveal weakness across most of Ireland's key export markets. Except for chemical exports, other exports to Britain were down 5.1pc, while exports to other EU countries fell by 1.2pc. The US remained unchanged, while exports to China fell by 8pc, and to the rest of the world by 4.1pc.
"While the international backdrop has picked up in recent quarters, this improvement has yet to feed through into Ireland's headline merchandise trade statistics," said Mr O'Sullivan.