Ag-food exports rose 5.6% in March despite Covid-19

Ag-food exports rose 5.6% in March despite Covid-19

Agricultural produce exports were higher in March this year, despite Covid-19.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures released last week showed a 5.6% increase in agricultural produce exports.

In contrast, exports of forestry and fishing produce fell by about 25%.

It was feared that trade would be adversely affected by Covid-19 lockdowns.

However, CSO figures show that Ireland’s goods exports for March 2020 were at the highest monthly level ever recorded, totalling €16,247m, representing an increase of €4,573m (39%) when compared with March 2019.

Throughout March, countries introduced and increased lockdowns.

In the EU, France was first, suspending events on February 29, and increasing restrictions in March.

In mid-March, EU countries closed land borders, closed non-essential shops, and banned non-essential movement.

The total value of Irish goods exports for the period January to March 2020 was €42,347m, 13% ahead of the first three months of 2019.

Compared to 2019, March exports of medical and pharmaceutical products increased by 60%, accounting for 36% of total exports.

Exports of organic chemicals increased by 121%, and represented 27% of the total exports.

Agricultural produce accounted for €712m (5%) of total exports.

The share of agricultural produce shipments going to the UK fell by 11%, to €282m.

The share going to the EU (excluding the UK) increased 19%, to €302m.

Food exporters may have benefited from “pantry loading” in March, as lockdowns resulted in some panic buying.

Agricultural produce exports to the USA in March totalled €24m (up 25%), and €104m to the rest of the world (up 22%).

The big change in the €62m exports of forestry and fishing produce in March was a 50% fall in shipments to the EU, from €38m to €19m.

Seasonally adjusted goods imports for March 2020 totalled €6,950m, down 9% compared to March 2019.

But imports of food and live animals increased by 15% to €791m.

Irish exports to Great Britain accounted for 6% of total Irish exports in March, down 9% compared to 2019.

Imports from Great Britain decreased by 7%, to €1,608m.

Commenting on the strong goods export data, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said: “While further study would be required, it may be that the March growth in pharmachem exports are linked to the growth in global demand for many key goods in this sector in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic during this period.

“The world’s top 10 chemicals/pharmaceuticals companies have a significant and longstanding presence in Ireland.”

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