Irish-owned companies hit hard by 16pc export slump
Merchandise exports from Ireland slumped 16pc or €6.1bn last year, cementing 2009's position as one of the worst on record for the country's indigenously owned companies.
The figure excludes exports from the myriad life sciences firms operating here, both Irish and foreign-owned. Including data from that sector, merchandise exports posted a relatively solid performance in 2009 given the state of the wider global economy.
Total merchandise exports were down just 1pc on that basis, at €85.5bn for the year, while total exports including goods and services were also down 1pc, at €154bn.
But the sectors that remain among the most important for Irish-owned companies all struggled, according to a report published yesterday by the Irish Exporters' Association (IEA).
Food exports tumbled 14pc to €6.04bn and drinks exports by 21pc to €973m. Total exports by Irish-owned firms fell 9pc to €13bn last year, with exports to the UK having fallen 16pc, or €2.5bn, to €13.3bn in 2009.
The UK is one of Ireland's most important export markets and sales have been hampered by a tougher economic and consumer environment, as well as weak sterling, which has made Irish exports more expensive.
The IEA said that sterling would probably need to revert to an exchange rate of 80p to the euro for export growth to the UK from Ireland to return.
Merchandise exports to Germany fell 20pc to €4.86bn, while those to France fell 7pc to €4.6bn.
Irish merchandise exports to the United States rose 12pc in 2009 to €18.6bn, with chemical and pharmaceutical products accounting for 60pc of the total.
The IEA said that the outlook for 2010 remained uncertain, as much of the momentum in the second half of 2009 had been a result of monetary stimulus measures in trading-partner countries, coupled with restocking following a destocking process in late 2008 and early 2009.
IEA chief executive John Whelan said while an overall recovery in exports would continue this year, it would not be reflected in job growth.
Exports of computer hardware were down 29pc last year to €10.04bn, while exports of miscellaneous manufactured goods were 26pc lower. Exports of medical devices were 4pc higher at €3.84bn, while chemical and pharmaceutical exports were up 12pc at €5.23bn.