This morning the CSO released the preliminary external trade data for the first six months of the year. Final details on merchandise trade for the first five months were also released. The headline figures are positive with a record seasonally-adjusted trade surplus of €4.1 billion recorded for June. The €21.9 billion surplus for the first six months of the year is also a new high, ahead of the €21.1 billion recorded for the same period last year.
The trend in imports and exports has been upward for 2011.
During 2008 and 2009 the trade surplus was growing, but not because of any increase in exports. The trade surplus was growing because imports were falling. This trend has now reversed and both imports and exports have been improving in 2011.
Here is the trade balance. Although June was a record, it is not that much greater than the level seen for several months for the past year or so.
Exports are more than 6% up on 2010, but excluding chemicals and related produces exports are up less than 1% on last year and are still nearly a quarter down on 2007. Excluding chemicals exports are only €120 million up on 2010.
Chemicals and related products (including pharmaceuticals) comprised 62% of total merchandise exports for the first five months of the year and clearly dominate Irish merchandise trade.
Here are Chemical exports since 2005.
If we exclude Chemicals and look at the export performance of the remaining categories, the view is not so positive, though the downward momentum of 2008 and 2009 is slowly being reversed.
The category that has driven most of this decline is Machinery and Transport Equipment. This category includes computers and these exports are down substantially over the past few years.
On the other exports of Food and Live Animals have been improving in the past 18 months. These exports only make up one-twelfth of the total but highlight the recent improvement (price increases to the rest of us) in the agri-food sector.
Finally, here is a quick glimpse and the increase in imports and in particular the imports by use data provided by the CSO.
It is the import of production materials that drove the fall in overall imports. These have begun to recover, albeit slowly. Imports of consumption goods are also showing a very gradual increase.Tweet