Exports perform strongly with 7pc increase to €7.52bn
Ireland's exports rose 7pc to €7.52bn in May, while imports increased by 15pc to €4.1bn, figures from the Central Statistics Office revealed yesterday.
Ireland's trade surplus, which means that Ireland exported more than it imported, remained largely unchanged at €3.4bn in May as both exports and imports rose.
Chemical products accounted for €4.545bn, or 60pc, of the total exports in May. Medical and pharmaceutical products increased by €99m (5pc) and organic chemicals increased by 9pc, or €113m, when compared with May last year.
The EU accounted for 58pc of total exports, valued at €4.389bn, with the UK, Belgium and Germany accounting for 36pc of total exports. Just over 20pc of exports went to the US.
Imports increased 7pc, or €268m, in May of this year compared with last year.
However, this was largely due to an increase of €208m in transport equipment imported into the country, mainly aircraft.
Exports for the first five months of 2012 amounted to €38.28bn, while imports totalled €20.982bn. Great Britain was the main source of imports, accounting for €1.127bn, followed by the USA at 16pc.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said a strong export performance would be "crucial" to delivering the economic and jobs recovery that the country is working hard to achieve.
"Conditions in the markets into which we export have been difficult over recent months, and the statistics do show some real challenges, but the signs of continued strength are very welcome," he added.
Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers expressed concern about the long-term sustainability of the export sector.
"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 in relation to external demand.
"An area of concern is the sustainability of the recent impressive performance of the pharmaceuticals sector, as output from this area tends to be quite erratic due to company-specific developments in patents and product cycles."
He said a substantial part of the sharp decline in the value of exports last December was due to the high-value cholesterol treating drug, Lipitor, coming off patent, something that is likely to be repeated in other pharmaceutical products.
"On these current statistics export growth in 2012 is set to be weaker than in 2011.
"We are looking for a volume increase of 3.8pc in goods and services, rising back up again to 4.6pc in 2013 all things being equal. As regards the external trade balance, we are forecasting a surplus of €43bn this year, down from the surplus of €43.5bn recorded in 2011," Mr McQuaid said.