New figures for March show seasonally adjusted exports rose by €361m (5%) and imports rose by €961m (or 26%), according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The CSO said the increase in imports was largely due to significant imports of Other transport equipment during the month.
Chemicals and related products accounted for €5.131bn (or 60%) of the total exports of €8.499bn in the month.
Comparing March 2012 with March 2011, exports of Medical and pharmaceutical products fell by €681m (24%) while the value of exports of Organic chemicals rose by €233m (13%).
On an overall basis the EU accounted for €5.259bn (or 62%) of total exports in March 2012, with Belgium and Great Britain accounting for over half of the EU share.
The US was the main destination for exports outside the EU accounting for 17% of total exports in the month.
However analysts said the data must be "treated with caution" as it is prone to revision.
"The difference between the monthly trade data and the quarterly national accounts out-turn is stark due to measurement errors and statistical discrepancies," said David McNamara of Davy Research.
"The monthly data indicated a 0.4% rise in goods exports volumes in Q4, while the national accounts revealed a 6.2% contraction.
"We therefore cannot infer too much from the Q1 out-turn until we receive the final national accounts data for Q1.
"We still expect a marked slowdown in export growth in 2012."