The Irish Exporters Association is calling for Government support for the export sector to avoid up to 90,000 job losses.

The association says the value of Irish exports fell by almost 10% in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year.

It has warned that the decline in exports will accelerate in the coming months unless the Government provides some additional boost for the sector.

The body warns further falls in exports will lead to increased unemployment in the sector - possibly more than 90,000 jobs.

The IEA said total exports in the first quarter were just under €34bn, down 9.6% from a year earlier.

It is expecting a 13% drop for the whole of 2009, which is a loss of more than €20bn in export revenue.

The association said Irish exporters had been particularly badly affected by the sharp fall in sterling's value over the past 12 months.

Chief Executive John Whelan said indigenous exporters depend on the UK market for more than half of their sales.

'Worst yet to come'

He added that the worst was yet to come, as many firms had not yet fully factored in the sterling fall into their prices.

Goods exports to the UK were down almost 12%, but Eurozone exports also fell by almost 10%. Exports to China dropped 21%.

Service exports were also down by around 20%, though the largest sector - computer services - dropped by only 9%.

Meanwhile, a report on the economy from Davy Stockbrokers says that the pace of decline in economic activity has slowed down, and that the months of January and February marked the worst point in the recession.

Read the report in full

Davy says though that while the Irish recession is past its most acute point, that a 'double dip recession' is possible if households react badly to the recent Budget.

It says there will be reduced activity in the construction sector next year, but at a more moderate rate than during this year and last year.