Exports soar 11pc during February as imports fall, says CSO
But figures point to emergence of two-speed Irish economy
The country's exports surged in February with provisional CSO figures showing a rise of 11pc in goods and services sold abroad. Imports fell by 3pc in the same month.
The Central Statistics Office said preliminary figures for the month showed exports totalled €8.1bn, while imports were almost €4.3bn.
As a result the seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose by 33pc year on year to €3.83bn for the month. This is the highest trade surplus since December 2009. Compared with February last year, exports were up 14pc, while imports rose by 18pc.
The news confirms the emergence of a two-speed economy. The foreign-owned part of the economy has recovered while the rest of the economy lags behind. The export sector is benefiting from a weaker euro. Agriculture, which is experiencing strong milk, beef and grain prices, and the distribution, transport and communication sector are all seeing strong global demand and exited the recession. But the rest of the private service sector remains flat with construction and the public sector continuing to shrink.
Exports have been rising in most countries as the world economy picks up steam. Most EU states are posting big increases as they send machinery and other equipment to the Far East.
However, more than half of Irish exports go to just two markets -- the US and UK. Around 56pc of our imports come from those two countries and Germany.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the seasonally adjusted rise in exports in February.
"The preliminary figures for February 2011 show a strong growth of 14pc on February 2010. I am pleased that this re-assuring positive trend in the growth in our exports over recent months has been maintained," he added.
Despite the concentration of exports and imports on a few key markets, Mr Bruton hailed efforts to broaden the country's markets.
"Irish companies are widening their market reach, expanding into new international markets, opening up new business.
"This is borne out by the statistics showing Irish exports are at an all-time high, which will be key to our economic recovery," the minister added.
Meanwhile, more detailed figures show exports dipped in January compared with the same month last year as sales of medical devices declined, Imports for the period soared on demand for cars due to the scrappage scheme.
Exports inched down 1pc to €6.96bn as sales of medical and pharmaceutical products plummeted 11pc. Imports jumped 26pc to €4.3bn in the same period as motor vehicles flooded into the country and leasing companies bought planes.
Among the biggest gains in exports were food and beverages. Exports of food and live animals jumped to €544.3m in January from €462m in the same month last year.
Around €460m of that went to the EU.