Seasonally adjusted exports fell by 11% to €9.138 billion in November, new preliminary figures from the Central Statistics show.

The CSO also said that seasonally adjusted imports edged 1% lower to €5.759 billion.

This resulted in a 24% decrease in the seasonally adjusted trade surplus to €3.379 billion in November compared to the surplus figure of €4.467 billion in October.

The October surplus was the highest positive trade balance since August 2012.

Today's figures show that exports of organic chemicals jumped by 97% to €2.267 billion in November 2015 compared to November 2014. 

Exports of medical and pharmaceutical products rose by 23% to €2.652 billion while exports of food and live animals increased by 11% to €894m.

The figures also reveal that imports of road vehicles grew by 43% to €401m in November compared to the same time last year. 

Imports of organic chemicals soared by 128% to €353m, while imports of medial and pharmaceutical products rose by 32% to €486m.

But imports of petroleum fell by 46% to €205m over the 12 month period.

Breaking down the figures on a geographical basis, they show that the EU accounted for 53% of total exports in November, while the US was the main non-EU destination and accounted for 24% of total exports.

The EU also accounted for 62% of the value of imports with 25% of the total coming from the UK.

The US (13%) and China (7%) were the main non-EU sources of imports.

Commenting on today's figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid the country's trade performance last year had benefited from competitiveness gains made against its main partners and by the weakening of the euro, particularly against sterling and the dollar. 

"Against a difficult global backdrop, the strength of the US and UK economies has been clearly a factor here," he added.

The economist noted that the growth of imports has outpaced that of exports in five of the last seven quarters. "This in turn reflects to some degree the pick-up in consumer confidence and increased personal consumption," he stated.

Mr McQuaid predicted that the country's trade balance for 2015 will show an increase for the first time since 2010. 

"As regards 2016, another very positive year is on the cards, with a trade surplus of €48-50 billion envisaged," he added.