Boost for economy as exports hit an all-time high of €9bn
Surge in sales to China shows inroads into emerging markets
IRISH goods exports have hit an all-time monthly record of €9bn. The seasonally adjusted Central Statistics Office figure for August shows goods exports up 18pc on the same period last year.
The figures represent exceptionally good news for the Irish economy in a week that has also included major expansion news from local companies Kerry Group and Paddy Power.
The greater-than-anticipated exports surge is led by the chemicals sector, which accounted for about 60pc of the growth. The main drivers were organic chemicals (up €458m), medical and pharmaceutical products (up €219m) and essential oils (up €158m).
Particularly encouraging is a 20pc increase of Irish goods going into China compared with the same period last year -- demonstrating that Ireland is indeed making the necessary inroads to the growing BRIC markets which have been deemed vital for our economic recovery given shrinkage in our traditional markets.
Exports in August were also up 16pc on a seasonally adjusted basis over the July figure. Ireland also recorded a trade surplus of €4.9bn -- a €1bn increase on July's positive revised balance of €3.8bn.
"An increase of €478m in unadjusted exports between July and August was the main reason for the big seasonally adjusted rise," economist Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers said. "We need to go back to June 2001 for a higher adjusted surplus than this."
In the first eight months of 2012, the unadjusted trade surplus amounted to €29.9bn -- €1.6bn more than the cumulative surplus of €28.3bn for the same period last year.
Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Richard Bruton said the strong export performance would be crucial to delivering the economic recovery.
"Conditions in international markets remain difficult, but these record figures show that Irish exporters are performing extraordinarily well in a tough environment. The challenge now is to build on these strengths."
Mr McQuaid said the trade figures are sending exactly the right messages out across the globe at a time when Ireland is beginning to be credited externally with overcoming its economic issues.
"The messages coming from Ireland have been extremely strong this week. We had Enda Kenny on the cover of 'Time' magazine in a positive report about Ireland's performance.
"We've had a number of very strong announcements from home-grown companies like Kerry Group and Paddy Power and now we have these extremely encouraging trading figures."
"The bottom line is that the export sector has been the main driver of Irish economic activity in recent times and will remain the key growth engine for some period to come, but there are clear downside risks in the short term, especially with external demand."
Another concern relates to the sustainability of the positive contribution from the chemicals sector. However, he said the overall export activity looks set to be supported by ongoing competitiveness gains and a very healthy services sector.
"We are forecasting an overall volume increase of 4.5pc in goods and services, down from 5.1pc in 2011, but rising back up again to 5pc in 2013 and 5.5pc in 2014, all things being equal," he added.