EXPORTS fell by 6pc in March 2011, according to the latest seasonally adjusted external trade figures from the Central Statistics Office.
But the country's trade surplus actually increased by 3pc in March to €3,925m due to a 14pc fall in imports, the figures show.
On an unadjusted basis, the value of exports in March 2011 climbed 8pc compared with March 2010 to €8,455m.
This is the highest exports figure since May 2002 when the value of exports was €9,122m. The value of imports on an unadjusted basis was down 3pc to €4,095m.
In the first two months of 2011, exports rose by 6pc to €14,542m compared to the same two months in 2010.
Organic chemical exports were up 12pc, while medical and pharmaceutical products rose by 10pc. On the downside, exports of electrical machinery fell 16pc.
Ireland's exports to the US rose 20pc, or €598m, and were up 18pc, or €314m, to Britain. Exports to Belgium fell 12pc, or €295m, and to Switzerland by 36pc, or €228m.
The US, Britain and Belgium were the main export markets, accounting for over half (53pc) of the total value of exports in the first two months of 2011.
In that same period, Ireland's imports rose 21pc to €8,446m. The other transport equipment (including aircraft) category was up 120pc, or €544m, while petrol imports rose 26pc, or €174m. Imports of electrical machinery fell 8pc.
Imports from the US rose by 50pc, or €545m, and from Britain by 18pc, or €370m.
Imports from Britain, USA and Germany were 56pc of the total value of imports in the first two months of 2011