Ireland’s trade surplus narrowed slightly in February, according to preliminary figures from the Central Statistics Office, as growing imports outstripped an expansion in exports.

February saw exports of more than €8.5bn, according to the figures, up €238m (3%) on January’s numbers.

At the same time imports reached over €4.7bn – up €272m (6%) month-on-month.

This left the seasonally adjusted trade surplus at €3.8bn – down €34m (1%) on January.

However the trade surplus grew when compared on an annual basis, while both imports and exports were significantly higher.

Year-on-year seasonally adjusted exports were up almost €1.29bn (17.8%), while imports increased by €644m (15.8%).

This left the trade surplus €644m (20.3%) higher than twelve months previous.

Pharmaceutical and medical products were the main drivers of this growth, accounting for an extra €620m in exports year-on-year.

The CSO said that the export of miscellaneous manufactured articles were up by €177m.

During February, the majority of Irish exports – 53% - were destined for the European Union; with Britain, Belgium and Germany the three biggest customers within the bloc.

Outside of the EU, the United States was the biggest recipient with 23% of all Irish exports, while exports to Switzerland and Saudi Arabia grew significantly year-on-year, up 64.8% and 131.8% respectively.