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Irish goods exports were valued at €165 billion in 2021, the highest total on record. Alamy Stock Photo

Irish exports hit their highest-ever level in 2021 while trade with Northern Ireland surged

Imports and exports to and from Northern Ireland both rose by nearly €4 billion.

THE VALUE OF goods exported from Ireland rose to its highest level ever last year, powered by medical and pharmaceutical products and as cross-border trade surged.

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) today show €165 billion worth of goods were exported from Ireland last year. This is the highest total on record and an increase of €3 billion (2%) over 2020.

Medical and pharmaceutical products continued to dominate Ireland’s trade, accounting for 38% of all exports to the tune of €62 billion.

The most eye-catching increases were seen in goods travelling to and from Northern Ireland. Imports from the North rose by 65% to €3.9 billion while exports rose by 54% to €3.7 billion.

The statistics are further evidence of Brexit fuelling a boom in goods travelling in both directions across the border.

Meanwhile, the amount of goods arriving from Britain fell by 13% to €15.4 billion. Exports to Britain – which make up 9% of Ireland’s exports – did not suffer the same fate, instead rising by 17% to €14.4 billion.

Due to the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit agreement, trade with Britain is subject to customs checks.

However, the protocol effectively means Northern Ireland remains within the European Union single market for the movement of goods while also being part of the UK customs territory.

Screenshot 2022-02-15 at 15.09.44 The total share of exports (left) and imports (right) by region. CSO CSO

Exports to EU countries – which account for 37% of Irish exports – fell by 4% to €61.5 billion. Ireland still exports far more to the EU than it ships in as EU imports rose by 13% last year to €24.3 billion. This accounts for 33% of all imports.

Exports to non-EU countries were valued at €103.8 billion, an increase of €5.8 billion (6%). The USA was the largest export destination, accounting for €52 billion (32%) of total exports.

Imports also jumped compared with 2020, growing by 18% to €102 billion. It is the first time imports have exceeded the €100 billion milestone for the year.

The amount of mineral fuels – such as petrol, gas and coal – being brought into Ireland increased by 82% last year, to €6.1 billion, as the economy reopened.

Imports from non-EU countries totalled €68 billion in 2021, an increase of €11 billion (20%) on 2020. 

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