Ireland has lost its export growth momentum following nine consecutive quarters of growth, according to the second Investec Export Analysis Report.
The report, which captures export demand, export competitiveness and the pace of GDP growth in Ireland’s 15 major trading partners, found that growth stagnated in the last quarter of 2011.
Export demand was still up 1.3% on the same period in 2010.
The chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association, John Whelan, said real growth in the market was likely to come from Asia.
“The slowdown in European markets reported on has continued into the first months of this year,” Mr Whelan said.
“Exporters will be pushing for cost reductions to improve competitiveness and retain market share within the EU 27.
“The continued weakness in the euro will help make sales into the UK more competitive, but the real growth is most likely to come from market efforts in Asia.”
The largest gain in a single market came on the back of economic recovery in the US.
That market, which accounts for around 25% of Ireland’s merchandise exports, grew strongly, accounting for more than one-and-a-half times more of Ireland’s merchandise in the last quarter of 2011 than in the third quarter.
China was the second most significant contributor to the export sector, despite its relatively small share of the Irish export market.
The report said the ongoing expansion of the Chinese economy continues to present Ireland’s exporters with the opportunity to expand links into a large and still rapidly growing economy.
The head of treasury at Investec Ireland, Aisling Dodgson, said Ireland’s exports were being hit by the stagnation of the eurozone.
“Exports continue to be generally viewed as being the most likely route to economic recovery and while export performance has been impressive, external demand is dropping due to slowing growth with our key European trading partners and the ongoing eurozone woes,” Ms Dodgson said.
“However, we believe that Ireland’s export sector is significantly dynamic and, combined with our flexible and well-educated workforce and our growing competitiveness, these factors will play an important role in enhancing the resilience of the exporting sectors to the ongoing challenges.”
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