The value of exports in March fell 6% to €7.56bn when compared to the same month of 2013, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The fall was primarily driven by a €339m decrease in the value of organic chemical exports, and a €196m decrease in the value of medical and pharmaceutical exports.

This was countered slightly by a €58m rise in the value of food and animal exports, as well as a €42m increase in the export value of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials.

At the same time the value of imports rose year-on-year, up 16% on March 2013 to more than €4.8bn.

Half of this rise was due to an increase in organic chemical imports, while there was a €258m rise in the import value of machinery and transport equipment.

These two factors combined led to a significant narrowing in the trade surplus during March, which shrunk nearly 25% to €2.75bn.

The United States was the biggest importer of Irish goods during March, accounting for more than 24% of the total amount.

Britain was the second biggest customer, accounting for 14.6% of all exports, while Belgium was third with a 13.3% share.

Meanwhile, a quarter of all imports to Ireland came from Britain, with imports from the US and Switzerland coming a distant second and third, respectively.