Warning despite growth in exports
Ireland had its best-ever year for exports in 2010 but experts have warned the sector alone would not be enough to meet economic targets over the next four years.
Companies traded 161 billion euro worth of goods (£138 billion) and services with overseas buyers last year and the Irish Exporters' Association (IEA) expects business to grow by another 7.2% this year.
But the group's chief executive John Whelan warned more needed to be done to reach the forecasted economic growth under the International Monetary Union (IMF)-European Union (EU) bailout.
"The 2011 projection of a growth of 7.2% for total Irish exports is still well below the rate of growth in exports required to enable the targets in the IMF four-year plan to be achieved," he said.
Mr Whelan said exports would have to grow by more than 10% to secure overall economic targets under the Government's four-year recovery plan. He said home-grown firms would need to see overseas trade increase by 8% and foreign multinationals would need growth of 11% a year.
"If growth rates of this magnitude were achieved they would lead to 300,000 new jobs in the private sector and we believe that job creation on this scale is required to support the achievement of Ireland's GDP and tax targets," Mr Whelan said.
Manufacturing and agri-food sectors were the main drivers in the increase in exports last year, the IEA review said. Irish agri-food grew by 8% in 2010 and growth of this magnitude is expected to continue in 2011, the group said.
The life sciences sector, which includes chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and accounts for 63% of exports, grew by 12% last year. The IEA said it expected the sector to continue to grow this year but at a more moderate rate.
Trade to North America was particularly strong, with sales to the US, the largest market, up 18%, and to Canada up 27%. Exports to Germany, the largest EU market, increased 42%.
The emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China showed an increase of 12%.