Exports of goods fell by an annual 5.5% and imports fell by 6.7% in the first quarter of the year, it has been revealed.
Commenting on the figures, IBEC chief economist, David Croughan said: “The significant fall in exports reflects the severe difficulties faced by manufacturers selling into a weaker global economy with a strong currency; the fall in imports points to slower domestic demand.”
March export figures were down by an annual 15.5%.
“[This] also coincided with the euro hitting almost 80 pence against sterling and a dollar rate of $1.58,” said Mr Croughan.
“Trading conditions will continue to be very difficult over the coming months. Hopefully the stronger exchange rate will help to reduce inflation in the second half of the year, but high oil prices will offset some of this advantage.”