The value of exports decreased slightly in April when compared to the previous month, according to preliminary figures from the Central Statistics Office.

Export value stood at more than €6.78 billion during the month, according to the CSO, down €45m (1%) the March figures.

The value of imports saw a much sharper decline, however, falling €483m (11%) to less than €4 billion.

This meant that the seasonally adjusted trade surplus rose 18% to €2.87 billion in April from March - when it had touched its lowest level since July 2008.

On an annual basis, April 2014's export figures were 5% lower than in the same month last year, while import value rose slightly to €4.25 billion.

Medical and pharmaceutical exports saw the largest decline during the month, down 18% to €372m, while organic chemical exports fell 9% to €138m.

The European Union accounted for the majority (53%) of the country's exports during the month, with the United States making up a further 24%.

Commenting on today's CSO figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said that weak global demand had hit Irish exports in the past couple of years, particularly on the merchandise goods side.

But he said there are signs now that the world economy (including the key markets of the US, euro zone and UK) is starting to recover, which augurs well for the export sector in 2014. 

"Demand in these countries was affected by the very poor weather conditions in the early part of 2014, but this should correct itself as the year goes on," the economist said. 

Meanwhile, Investec economist Philip O'Sullivan said that while chemicals exports continue to dampen the headline performance, he believes that this area will make a stronger contribution on the export side as the year goes on.