Ireland’s Top 10 Exports

Ireland’s Top 10 Exports


Separate from Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland shipped US$135 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 17% increase from 2013 to 2017 and a 4.4% gain from 2016 to 2017.

From January to August 2018, exported goods from Ireland were valued at $109.2 billion. This 8-month metric puts Irish exports on track for an annualized $163.8 billion estimated for all 2018.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Ireland’s exported goods plus services represent 120.7% of total Irish economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, almost three-fifths (57.1%) of Irish exports by value were delivered to fellow European countries while 28.9% were sold to North American importers. Ireland shipped another 10.5% worth of goods to Asian customers. Smaller percentages went to Africa (1.2%) and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.8%).

Given Ireland’s population of 5 million people, its total $135 billion in 2017 exports translates to an impressive $26,900 for every resident in the island country.

Ireland’s unemployment rate was 6.1% as of January 2018 down from 7.1% 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 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Ireland.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Ireland’s most valuable exported product is drugs and medicines used for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes.

  1. Pharmaceuticals: US$38.2 billion (28.3% of total exports)
  2. Organic chemicals: $23.8 billion (17.7%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $13.8 billion (10.2%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: $9 billion (6.7%)
  5. Perfumes, cosmetics: $8.4 billion (6.2%)
  6. Machinery including computers: $7.4 billion (5.5%)
  7. Aircraft, spacecraft: $4.8 billion (3.5%)
  8. Other chemical goods: $3.7 billion (2.8%)
  9. Meat: $3.5 billion (2.6%)
  10. Dairy, eggs, honey: $2.7 billion (2%)

Ireland’s top 10 exports accounted for 85.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Dairy, eggs and honey was the fastest-growing among Ireland’s top 10 export categories, up 40.1% in value from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales were pharmaceuticals which gained 20.1%.

Ireland’s deliveries of aircraft and spacecraft posted the third-fastest acceleration in value (up 16.4%), followed by exported meat (up 9.3%).

Leading the decliners were organic chemicals via a -14% setback year over year, trailed by the -8% fall for exported electrical machinery and equipment.

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.


Overall, Ireland posted a $50.7 billion trade surplus during 2017, down by -3.1% from a $52.3 billion surplus in 2017.

As of June 2018, Ireland’s trade surplus stood at $32.4 billion up 29.9% compared to the first 6 months of 2017.

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 is 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$28 billion (Up by 8.5% since 2016)
  2. Organic chemicals: $19.7 billion (Down by -11.2%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $11.2 billion (Up by 5.7%)
  4. Perfumes, cosmetics: $7.1 billion (Down by -4%)
  5. Electrical machinery, equipment: $4 billion (Down by -16.8%)
  6. Meat: $2.8 billion (Up by 11.7%)
  7. Other chemical goods: $2.8 billion (Up by 6.7%)
  8. Dairy, eggs, honey: $1.9 billion (Up by 45.4%)
  9. Cereal/milk preparations: $1.7 billion (Up by 7%)
  10. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $530.3 million (Up by 14.9%)

Ireland has highly positive net exports in the international trade of pharmaceuticals, a relatively recession-proof industry albeit it can be subject to severe regular and 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$9.9 billion (Up by 3.7% since 2016)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: -$3.8 billion (Up by 12.5%)
  3. Vehicles: -$3.8 billion (Down by -5.3%)
  4. Plastics, plastic articles: -$1.3 billion (Up by 24.5%)
  5. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$877.7 million (Up by 7.3%)
  6. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$805.2 million (Up by 2.4%)
  7. Paper, paper items: -$803.4 million (Up by 4.1%)
  8. Articles of iron or steel: -$570.8 million (Up by 17.3%)
  9. Machinery including computers: -$558.9 million (Up by 200.7%)
  10. Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$512.6 million (Up by 1.4%)

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 2017. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2016.

RankIrish Export Product2017 Value (US$)Change
1Blood fractions (including antisera)$19.9 billion+85.9%
2Medication mixes in dosage$17.2 billion-12.9%
3Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$13.3 billion-7.7%
4Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$7.8 billion-2.5%
5Aircraft, spacecraft$6.5 billion+3.9%
6Orthopedic appliances$5.7 billion+7.2%
7Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$5.4 billion-1.2%
8Integrated circuits/microassemblies$5.3 billion-13.9%
9Sulphonamides$3.7 billion-24.8%
10Miscellaneous heterocyclics$3.4 billion-25.5%
11Computers, optical readers$3 billion-6.8%
12Chemical industry products/residuals$2.3 billion+5.4%
13Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$2.3 billion+5%
14Fresh or chilled beef$2 billion+7.2%
15Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$1.4 billion+9%
16Other diagnostic/lab reagents$1.2 billion+19.3%
17Hormones, miscellaneous steroids$1.1 billion+1%
18Butter, other fats derived from milk$1.1 billion+60.8%
19Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1 billion+15.9%
20Amino-compounds (oxygen)$1 billion-25.1%
21Cheese, curd$922.8 million+20.1%
22Phone system devices $820.6 million+48.4%
23Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$817 million+11.5%
24Unrecorded sound media$766.5 million-1.7%
25Processed petroleum oils$742.3 million+28.5%
26Computer parts, accessories$722.2 million-2.6%
27Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$690 million-6.2%
28Turbo-jets$659 million+26.6%
29Aluminum oxide/hydroxide$644 million+34.3%
30Physical/chemical analysis tools$607.3 million+8.7%
31Swine meat$502.6 million+3.3%
32Other food preparations$493.2 million+39.9%
33Refrigerators, freezers$487.3 million+3.1%
34Antibiotics$482.9 million-0.2%
35Other measuring/testing machines$445.6 million+34.6%
36Aircraft parts$426.9 million+7.7%
37Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$420.4 million+58%
38Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$379.1 million+10%
39Fork-lift trucks$373.3 million+3.8%
40Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$373.1 million+144%
41Sheep or goat meat$336.6 million+14.2%
42Heterocyclics, oxygen$320.6 million-4.2%
43Machinery parts$319 million+51.6%
44Live horses, donkeys$317.9 million+41.9%
45Malt beer$308.9 million-1.9%
46Red meat offal$307.3 million+5.8%
47Oral/dental hygiene preparations$300 million+4.8%
48Mechano-therapy appliances$296.9 million+34.5%
49Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$295.5 million-3.2%
50Casein, derivatives, glues$293.7 million+3.1%
51Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$289.1 million+15.8%
52Printing machinery$282.3 million+9.3%
53Zinc ores, concentrates$281.6 million+37.1%
54Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$275.3 million+7.5%
55TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$262.4 million-28.2%
56Derricks, cranes$261.7 million+93.3%
57Lower-voltage switches, fuses$253.6 million-40.1%
58Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$249.8 million+4.5%
59Medication mixes not in dosage$246 million-6.6%
60Frozen beef$239.3 million+17.9%
61Print/write/draw inks$237.7 million-18.8%
62Interchangeable hand/machine tools$218.9 million+26.5%
63Miscellaneous plastic items$189.5 million+7.7%
64Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$186.8 million-6.5%
65Whole fish (fresh)$186.1 million+40.1%
66Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$184.6 million+5.3%
67Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$183.4 million-1.2%
68Wood fiberboard , other ligneous materials$178.8 million+1.5%
69Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$176.1 million+6.2%
70Insulated wire/cable$167.8 million-12.8%
71Carboxyamid/amide-function compounds$167.4 million-32.9%
72Whole fish (frozen)$165.4 million+11.3%
73Liquid pumps and elevators$164.7 million+0.8%
74Miscellaneous machinery$163 million+6.1%
75Electrical converters/power units$162.7 million+4.4%
76Taps, valves, similar appliances$155.6 million-25.3%
77Hydraulic cements$154.3 million-1.6%
78Automobile parts/accessories$148.6 million+5.2%
79Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$145.4 million+53.7%
80Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$145.2 million+4.1%
81Electrical energy$142.3 million+132.6%
82Sawn wood$140.2 million+5%
83Cellulose/chemical derivatives$139.2 million-10%
84Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$139.1 million+6.9%
85Other organo-inorganic compounds$136.1 million-9.8%
86Harvest/threshing machinery$133.2 million+14.6%
87Bovine/equine rawhides, skins$129.5 million+3.4%
88Iron or steel scrap$127.2 million+56.2%
89Concrete/artificial stone items$125.2 million+17.2%
90Uncombed synthetic staple fibers$125.1 million+5.5%
91Whey$124.3 million+10%
92Packaged dressings$124 million-38.3%
93Crustaceans (including lobsters)$123.8 million-8.8%
94Air or vacuum pumps$119.1 million+15.1%
95Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$116.3 million-19.3%
96Poultry meat$114.7 million+15.1%
97Electrical machinery$108.7 million+3.8%
98Dried organs, heparin$108 million+8.2%
99Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$107.2 million+3.7%
100Stoppers, caps, lids, corks$107 million-17.3%
101Miscellaneous engines, motors$106.7 million+7.6%
102Crude oil$104.7 million+498,500%
103Plastic builders' items$104 million+0.5%
104Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$102.7 million+16%
105Brooms, brushes$101.1 million+32.1%
106Moluscs$99.9 million+5.7%
107Amino-resins$99.2 million+8.4%
108Fruit and vegetable juices$98.1 million+27.1%
109Live bovine cattle$97.3 million+28.4%
110Table games, bowling equipment$89.6 million+13.5%
111Peat$88.7 million-1.8%
112Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates$88.1 million+11.9%
113Machinery for making semi-conductors$86 million+16.8%
114Ball-point, felt-tipped pens, markers$84.6 million+11.2%
115Temperature-change machines$84.1 million+406.3%
116Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$82.3 million+15.5%
117Precious metal compounds$81 million-19.7%
118Other organic cleaning preparations$81 million+26.1%
119Bridge structures, parts$79.2 million+22.2%
120Electric water heaters, hair dryers$78.1 million+2.7%
121Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$77.3 million+62.9%
122Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$76.6 million+35.3%
123Peptones, other protein substances$76.2 million+27.8%
124Paper containers, cellulose wadding$73.9 million+14%
125Live swine$73.4 million+18.9%
126Central heating boilers$72.1 million+10.4%
127Particle board, other ligneous materials$71 million+32.9%
128Trailers$69.3 million+11.8%
129Fats (cattle, sheep, goats)$68 million+11.7%
130Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$67.4 million-0.5%
131Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$63.4 million+11.8%
132Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$63 million-1.4%
133Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$61.7 million+4.5%
134Buttermilk, yogurt, curdled milk$61.2 million-3.4%
135Prepared glues, other prepared adhesives$60.9 million+2.4%
136Miscellaneous furniture$60.7 million-23.4%
137Base metal mountings, fittings$60.5 million+18.5%
138Liquid/gas checking instruments$57.4 million-0.3%
139#N/A$57.1 million+30.7%
140#N/A$57.1 million-43%
141Precious stone dust, powder$55.9 million+19.7%
142Other fermented beverages$55.4 million-26.8%
143Precious metal waste, scrap$53.8 million+22.4%
144Microphones/headphones/amps$53 million+10.5%
145Carboxylic acids$51.8 million-20.3%
146Styrene polymers$50.8 million+9.1%
147Organo-sulphur compounds$48.9 million+4,456%
148Coloring matter$48.8 million-12.9%
149Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$48.5 million-4.8%
150Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)$48.5 million+26.1%
151Copper waste, scrap$47.7 million+41.4%
152Amine-function compounds$47.6 million+29.3%
153Vegetable saps, extracts$47.1 million+1.7%
154Miscellaneous iron or steel items$46.4 million+23.1%
155Agricultural, forestry machinery$45.7 million+24.6%
156Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$44.7 million+1.2%
157Sausages$44.3 million+22.3%
158Electric motors, generators$44.1 million-0.2%
159Locust beans$44 million+75.2%
160Inedible meat flour$43.2 million+14.4%
161Leather saddles, harnesses$41.3 million+3.8%
162 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $41.3 million+14.8%
163Miscellaneous aluminum items$41.3 million+107.5%
164Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$41.2 million-22.6%
165Lead plates, sheets, strip, foil, powders$39.8 million+18.1%
166Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)$39.1 million+33.6%
167Mattresses, quilts$38.9 million-2.4%
168Trucks$38.7 million-8.7%
169Jewelry$38.1 million-4.2%
170Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$38 million+6.1%
171Electric generating sets, converters$38 million+157.4%
172Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$36.9 million-16.0%
173Printed books, brochures$36.6 million-29.9%
174Miscellaneous enzymes$36.5 million+4.8%
175Special purpose vehicles$36.4 million-19.2%
176Lifting/loading machinery$35.7 million+41.2%
177Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$35.6 million-16%
178Slag-wool, similar mineral wools$35.4 million+30.4%
179Rubber tires (new)$35.2 million+0.1%
180Unused stamps (current or new issue)$34.4 million-26.8%
181Albumins, whey proteins$33.5 million-26.6%
182Safety glasses$32.6 million+24.1%
183Natural magnesium carbonate, magnesia$32.6 million+17.3%
184Hydrometers, thermometers$32.5 million+7.2%
185Iron and steel stranded wire, cables (insulated)$32.2 million+253%
186Air conditioners$31.9 million-17.6%
187Paper labels$31.8 million-3.7%
188Photographic plates/film, developed$31.6 million+95.5%
189Glass fibers$31.4 million+6.9%
190T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$31 million-37.7%
191Agricultural, forestry machinery (soil cultivation)$30.8 million-10.7%
192Aluminum waste, scrap$30.8 million+39.3%
193Ethylene polymers$30.3 million+97.2%
194Electric ignition/start equipment$30.1 million-9.2%
195Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$30 million-4%
196Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$29.4 million-2.2%
197Lead ores, concentrates$28.9 million+10.7%
198Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$28.7 million-18.2%
199Plastic tile or roll coverings$28.5 million+15.3%
200Printed circuits$28.4 million-9.3%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$132.6 billion or 96.1% by value for all products exported from Ireland during 2017.

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

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 31, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Ireland. Accessed on August 31, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 31, 2018