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Irish exports hit by falls in pharma and chemicals sales

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There was a sharp fall in Irish exports in February, according to data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), although it appears that this was a result of a downturn in sales of chemicals and pharmaceuticals rather than the coronavirus. Those sales account for nearly half of all exports.

Seasonally adjusted exports fell by €2.2bn or 16pc €11.6bn, the CSO said yesterday.

Irish exports to China - which make up a tiny proportion of the overall number - actually rose from a year ago. €1.7bn in January and February of this year compared to €1.15bn in the same period of 2019 were destined for the Asian marketplace.

Chinese factories closed at the start of February for the Lunar New Year and many did not reopen as Covid-19 roiled the country.

But the biggest hits to exports illustrate Ireland's dependence on a small number of product lines that are largely sold in the US.

Exports to the United States took a €700m hit from February last year.

Exports of organic chemicals decreased by €560m to €2.3bn in February 2020 compared with February 2019, accounting for 20pc of total exports. Medical and pharmaceutical products, 29pc of our export total, also decreased by €578 million to €3.4bn.

Earlier this week, the country's biggest port operator, Dublin Port said it expected to see a "very significant" decline in cargo volumes and passenger traffic over the next three months.

In the first three months of this year there was a decline in overall port tonnage of almost 5pc compared to the first quarter of 2019.

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