Ireland’s Top 10 Exports

Ireland’s Top 10 Exports


A distinct entity from Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland shipped US$167 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 34.2% increase since 2014 and a 19.6% gain from 2017 to 2018.

Reported as of September 7, 2019, Ireland exported $85.8 billion worth of goods during the first 6 months of 2019 up 3% compared to the same period one year earlier.

From a continental perspective, almost three-fifths (55.1%) of Irish exports by value in 2018 were delivered to fellow European countries while 29.8% were sold to North American importers. Ireland shipped another 10.3% worth of goods to Asian customers. Smaller percentages went to Africa (1%) and Latin America (0.7%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, and Oceania (0.7%) led by Australia.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Ireland’s exported goods plus services represent 119.9% of total Irish economic output or Gross Domestic Product. That percentage includes a significant amount of re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

Given Ireland’s population of 5.1 million people, its total $167 billion in 2018 exported goods translates to an impressive $32,600 for every resident in the island country.

In macroeconomic terms, Ireland’s total exported goods represent 43.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($385.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 43.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 69.2% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Ireland’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Ireland also provided $205.7 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 53.3% of GDP in PPP. Those metrics include a significant amount of re-exporting activity.

Ireland’s unemployment rate was 4.4% as of May 2019 down from 6.1% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Ireland’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Irish global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Ireland.

  1. Pharmaceuticals: US$53.3 billion (32.3% of total exports)
  2. Organic chemicals: $32.9 billion (19.9%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $15.3 billion (9.3%)
  4. Perfumes, cosmetics: $9.1 billion (5.5%)
  5. Machinery including computers: $8.9 billion (5.4%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $8.7 billion (5.3%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $5.6 billion (3.4%)
  8. Other chemical goods: $4.2 billion (2.6%)
  9. Meat: $3.7 billion (2.2%)
  10. Dairy, eggs, honey: $3 billion (1.8%)

Ireland’s top 10 exports accounted for 87.6% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Pharmaceuticals was the fastest-growing among Ireland’s top 10 export categories, up 39.1% in value from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales were organic chemicals which gained 38%.

Ireland’s deliveries of miscellaneous chemical goods posted the third-fastest acceleration in value (up 14%), followed by exported machinery including computers (up 13.6%).

Year over year, there were two declining categories namely aircraft and spacecraft (down -19.6%) and electrical machinery and equipment (down -5%).

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Ireland’s Most Valuable Export Products further down below.


Ireland posted an overall $59.2 billion trade surplus during 2018, up by 20.2% from a $49.2 billion in black ink one year earlier.

The following types of Irish product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Pharmaceuticals: US$39.7 billion (Up by 37.4% since 2017)
  2. Organic chemicals: $28.6 billion (Up by 49.1%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $12.4 billion (Up by 9.8%)
  4. Perfumes, cosmetics: $7.9 billion (Up by 9.7%)
  5. Other chemical goods: $3.2 billion (Up by 16.2%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $3.1 billion (Down by -24.0%)
  7. Meat: $2.9 billion (Up by 4.2%)
  8. Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.1 billion (Up by 13.5%)
  9. Cereal/milk preparations: $1.4 billion (Down by -17.4%)
  10. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $619.7 million (Up by 12.7%)

Ireland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of pharmaceuticals, a relatively recession-proof industry albeit it can be subject to product development cycles. The above cashflows indicate Ireland’s strong competitive advantages under the global pharmaceuticals product category.


Below are exports from Ireland that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Ireland’s goods trail Irish importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Aircraft, spacecraft: -US$18.6 billion (Up by 56.8% since 2017)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$5.3 billion (Up by 27.6%)
  3. Vehicles: -$4.1 billion (Up by 9%)
  4. Machinery including computers: -$1.6 billion (Up by 414.5%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.4 billion (Up by 6.3%)
  6. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$967 million (Up by 10.8%)
  7. Paper, paper items: -$887 million (Up by 10.7%)
  8. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$878.5 million (Up by 8.4%)
  9. Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$831.5 million (Up by 61.2%)
  10. Articles of iron or steel: -$730.9 million (Up by 43.5%)

Ireland has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for aircraft and spacecraft.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Ireland’s competitive disadvantages in the aeronautical products market, but also represent key opportunities for Ireland to improve its position in the global economy through focused technological innovations.


Irish Export Companies

Ireland placed 19 companies on the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. The following selected corporations are examples of world-leading Irish companies:

  • Accenture (computer services)
  • Actavis (pharmaceuticals)
  • Covidien (medical equipment, supplies)
  • CRH (construction materials)
  • Ingersoll-Rand (conglomerates)
  • Kerry Group (food processing)
  • Perrigo (pharmaceuticals)
  • Seagate Technology (computer storage devices)
  • Shire (pharmaceuticals)
  • Smurfit Kappa Group (paper products)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are examples of entrepreneurial Irish exporters:

  • Armstrong Medical (mercury, inorganic bases, calcium)
  • Bolger Engineering (iron/non-alloy steel products, electric motor parts, generators)
  • Carlow Brewing (malt beer, acyclic polyhydric alcohols)
  • Tratech Ireland (machine tool parts and accessories)


Ireland’s capital city is Dublin.

Searchable List of Ireland’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Ireland’s top export products are blood used for medical purposes followed by drugs and medicines then heterocyclic compounds.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Ireland during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankIreland's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Blood fractions (including antisera)$30.5 billion+53.1%
2Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$21.7 billion+62.9%
3Medication mixes in dosage$21.4 billion+24.4%
4Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$8.5 billion+8.9%
5Orthopedic appliances$6.5 billion+13.2%
6Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)$5.8 billion+6.7%
7Aircraft, spacecraft$5.4 billion-17.6%
8Sulphonamides$4.3 billion+15.6%
9Integrated circuits/microassemblies$4.1 billion-22.2%
10Miscellaneous heterocyclics$3.7 billion+9.8%
11Computers, optical readers$3.6 billion+20.7%
12Chemical industry products/residuals$2.6 billion+11.7%
13Fresh or chilled beef$2 billion+4%
14Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$2 billion-11.2%
15Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$1.4 billion+0.2%
16Other diagnostic/lab reagents$1.4 billion+19%
17Butter, milk-derived fats/oils$1.3 billion+21.9%
18Computer parts, accessories$1.2 billion+64%
19Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1.2 billion+12.5%
20Phone system devices including smartphones$1.1 billion+31.4%
21Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$1.1 billion-0.2%
22Amino-compounds (oxygen)$992.5 million-2.5%
23Cheese, curd$960.3 million+4.1%
24Unrecorded sound media$947.6 million+23.6%
25Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$909.9 million+11.4%
26Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$826.1 million+19.7%
27Aluminum oxide/hydroxide$806.9 million+25.3%
28Processed petroleum oils$758.5 million+2.2%
29Physical/chemical analysis tools$661.4 million+8.9%
30Refrigerators, freezers$618.5 million+26.9%
31Swine meat$503.5 million+0.2%
32Fork-lift trucks$455.7 million+22.1%
33Other measuring/testing machines$443.3 million-0.5%
34Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$439.5 million+4.5%
35Electrical energy$417.4 million+193.2%
36Turbo-jets$410.7 million-37.7%
37Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$395.9 million+4.4%
38Sheep or goat meat$358.6 million+6.5%
39Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$347.9 million-6.8%
40TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$334.9 million+27.6%
41Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$330.6 million+11.9%
42Red meat offal$328.6 million+6.9%
43Malt beer$328.3 million+6.3%
44Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$315.8 million+9.2%
45Printing machinery$304.7 million+7.9%
46Frozen beef$299.8 million+25.3%
47Oral/dental hygiene preparations$297.5 million-0.8%
48Antibiotics$296.8 million-38.5%
49Insulated wire/cable$294.6 million+75.5%
50Live horses, mules$290 million-8.8%
51Casein, derivatives, glues$288.6 million-1.7%
52Zinc ores, concentrates$280.1 million-0.5%
53Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$279 million+1.4%
54Mechano-therapy appliances$277.7 million-6.5%
55Lower-voltage switches, fuses$268.6 million+5.9%
56Derricks, cranes$251.2 million-4%
57Interchangeable hand/machine tools$251.2 million+14.8%
58Heterocyclics, oxygen$250.5 million-21.9%
59Other food preparations$247.3 million-49.9%
60Other organo-inorganic compounds$239.7 million+76%
61Electrical converters/power units$231 million+42%
62Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$223.3 million+21%
63Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$220.1 million+20%
64Dried organs, heparin$218.3 million+102.1%
65Miscellaneous machinery$208.6 million+28%
66Aircraft parts$208 million-51.3%
67Miscellaneous plastic items$205.3 million+8.3%
68Fiberboard of wood/other ligneous materials$197.3 million+10.4%
69Medication mixes not in dosage$197 million-19.9%
70Liquid pumps and elevators$196.3 million+19.2%
71Carboxyamid/amide-function compounds$195.1 million+16.5%
72Machinery parts$191.9 million-39.8%
73Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$188 million+6.8%
74Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$185.9 million-25.6%
75Hydraulic cements$177.3 million+14.9%
76Sawn wood$177.2 million+26.4%
77Whole fish (frozen)$169.5 million+2.5%
78Iron or steel scrap$168.9 million+32.7%
79Cellulose/chemical derivatives$167.2 million+20.2%
80Automobile parts/accessories$165.8 million+11.5%
81Crustaceans (including lobsters)$156.4 million+26.3%
82Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$156.3 million+7.5%
83Harvest/threshing machinery$150 million+12.6%
84Whole fish (fresh)$147.1 million-21%
85Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$142.8 million-1.6%
86Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$139.8 million-25.2%
87Amino-resins$139.5 million+40.6%
88Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$137.6 million-1.1%
89Whey$136.5 million+9.8%
90Uncombed synthetic staple fibers$134.5 million+7.5%
91Miscellaneous engines, motors$132.5 million+24.1%
92Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$125.4 million+62.3%
93Print/write/draw inks$124 million-47.8%
94Fruit and vegetable juices$123.5 million+25.9%
95Stoppers, caps, lids$121.9 million+13.9%
96Air or vacuum pumps$121.3 million+1.8%
97Concrete/artificial stone items$121.1 million-3.3%
98Packaged dressings$120.3 million-3%
99Plastic builders' items$120.1 million+15.4%
100Electric water heaters, hair dryers$118.9 million+52.3%
101Live bovine cattle$117.6 million+20.9%
102Taps, valves, similar appliances$115.6 million-25.7%
103Machinery for making semi-conductors$115.2 million+33.9%
104Poultry meat$113.2 million-1.3%
105Bovine/equine rawhides, skins$108.5 million-16.2%
106Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$106.8 million-0.3%
107Moluscs$103.4 million+3.5%
108Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$102.4 million-0.4%
109Brooms, brushes$101.9 million+0.8%
110Other organic cleaning preparations$101.2 million+25%
111Bridge structures, parts$94.9 million+20%
112Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$94.5 million-18.8%
113Paper containers, cellulose wadding$91.4 million+23.6%
114Peat$89.9 million+1.3%
115Particle board, other ligneous materials$89.9 million+26.6%
116Table games, bowling equipment$86.6 million-3.4%
117Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates$86.4 million-2%
118Precious metal compounds$84.1 million+3.8%
119Ball-point pens, felt-tipped markers$79.2 million-6.4%
120Electrical machinery$76.7 million-29.4%
121Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$76.4 million+20.5%
122Central heating boilers$75.4 million+4.6%
123Peptones, derivatives$75 million-1.6%
124Trailers$72.9 million+5.2%
125Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$72.3 million+17.3%
126Live swine$72.2 million-1.7%
127Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$72 million-6%
128Carboxylic acids$71.9 million+38.7%
129Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$68.6 million+8.8%
130Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$68.4 million-16.9%
131Miscellaneous furniture$67.5 million+11.1%
132Miscellaneous articles, dress patterns$67.3 million+169%
133Styrene polymers$65.8 million+29.6%
134Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$65.4 million-2.9%
135Precious metal waste, scrap$65 million+21%
136Buttermilk, yogurt, other fermented milk$63.5 million+3.7%
137Prepared glues, other adhesives$62 million+1.7%
138Liquid/gas checking instruments$59.8 million+4.3%
139Base metal mountings, fittings$58.5 million-3.2%
140Sausages$55.8 million+26%
141Copper waste, scrap$55.7 million+16.9%
142Miscellaneous aluminum items$55.1 million+33.6%
143Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$55 million+13.3%
144Ethylene polymers$54.6 million+79.9%
145Inedible meat flour$52.3 million+21.1%
146Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$51.8 million+72.4%
147Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)$51.6 million+6.5%
148Other fermented beverages$51.6 million-6.9%
149Albumins$51.2 million+53%
150 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $48.9 million+18.4%
151Agriculture/forestry machinery$48.8 million+7%
152Electric motors, generators$48.8 million+10.5%
153Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$48.7 million+9%
154Printed books, brochures$47.4 million+29.5%
155Bovine/sheep/goat fats$46.7 million-31.3%
156Rubber tires (new)$46.1 million+30.8%
157Mattresses, quilts$45.9 million+17.8%
158Coloring matter$45.3 million-7.3%
159Mineral wools including slag-wool$45.3 million+27.8%
160Glycosides, their salts$45.1 million-21%
161Jewelry$44.4 million+16.6%
162Locust beans$44.3 million+0.7%
163Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$44.1 million+23.8%
164Photographic plates/film, developed$43.5 million+37.8%
165Microphones/headphones/amps$43.5 million-18%
166Vegetable saps, extracts$42.9 million-8.9%
167Special purpose vehicles$42.2 million+15.9%
168Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$41.9 million+10.3%
169Lead plates, sheets, foil, powders, flakes$41.2 million+3.6%
170Air conditioners$40.7 million+27.7%
171Aluminum waste, scrap$40.7 million+32.2%
172Electric generating sets, converters$40.1 million+5.5%
173Miscellaneous iron or steel items$40 million-13.8%
174Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$39 million-5.5%
175Amine-function compounds$38.9 million-18.3%
176Enzymes$38.5 million+5.3%
177Plastic tile or roll coverings$37 million+30%
178Soil preparation/cultivation machinery$36.9 million+19.9%
179Trucks$36.6 million-5.5%
180Unused stamps (current or new issue)$36.4 million+5.9%
181Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$35.9 million-2.5%
182Lifting/loading machinery$34.1 million-4.4%
183Coal, solid fuels made from coal$33.4 million+84.3%
184Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$33.1 million+15.3%
185Paper labels$32.7 million+2.8%
186Packaged animal/vegetable fertilizers$31.6 million+35.5%
187Safety glasses$30.5 million-6.5%
188Vulcanized rubber items$30.4 million+8.3%
189Cars$30.4 million+27.3%
190Hydrometers, thermometers$30 million-7.5%
191Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$29.8 million+1.3%
192Miscellaneous preserved fruits$29.5 million+326.3%
193Electric ignition/start equipment$29.5 million-2.1%
194Lead ores, concentrates$29.4 million+1.7%
195Glass fibers$29.4 million-6.4%
196Sort/screen/washing machinery$28.8 million+31.3%
197TV receivers/monitors/projectors$28.4 million+51.3%
198Electric motor parts$28.3 million+40.9%
199Electric storage batteries$28.3 million+56.7%
200Paint/varnish aqueous solution$28.3 million+27.1%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$159.2 billion or 96.4% by value for all products exported from Ireland during 2018.

See also Ireland’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Ireland’s Top 10 Imports and Ireland’s Top Trading Partners

Research Sources:
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on September 7, 2019

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 7, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 7, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 7, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 7, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 7, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Ireland. Accessed on September 7, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 27, 2019

World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 7, 2019