THE BIGGEST annual trade surplus on record of €44.7bn was marked last year, a 3pc increase on 2010, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office.
Exports for the year were up 4pc to €93bn while we imported goods worth €48.2bn.
Multinational exports were boosted by strong performances in sectors like medical and pharma.
But sectors like dairy products increased by 24pc to €1.7bn and meat was up 15pc €2.8bn.
Exports to the US were up 3pc to €21.4bn and to Britain by 5pc to €13bn.
The biggest imports were fuel and medical and pharmaceutical goods.
Preliminary figures for January last show a 10pc hike in exports of €7.6bn.
According to Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Bloxham Stockbrokers, the latest external trade figures were much better than expected with the seasonally-adjusted surplus picking up in January to €3.8bn from a revised €3.5bn in December.
“Meanwhile, on an unadjusted basis, the value of exports in January was up 9.7pc on the same month in 2011 while the value of imports was 3.2pc above that in January of the previous year,” he said.
“Revised figures for the whole of last year show that the overall trade surplus amounted to €44.7bn, a new record high and €1.3bn greater than the surplus in 2010, the previous record high.”
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said the figures follow the most recent Eurostat data showing that for the full year, 2011, Ireland had the third largest trade surplus in absolute terms in the EU, behind Germany and the Netherlands.
Speaking from a trade and investment mission in San Francisco, he added: "This Government have consistently pointed out that a strong export performance will be crucial to achieving the economic and jobs recovery we are all working so hard for.
"The strong performance of our exports in 2011 confirms the potential for a wider recovery in the economy.
“Despite the warnings of some commentators about our exports, recent weeks and months have seen some encouraging signs in the global economy as well as some further signs that the Irish economy has stabilised and is returning to sustainable growth. In this context, today’s announcement that our exports are up 10pc year-on-year is very welcome," he added.