Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Background Notes

Open in Excel:


This publication from the Central Statistics Office analyses goods exports and imports data from the point of view of the activity and the size of the enterprises engaged in trade in goods. This differs from the traditional focus of trade statistics, which is on the products being traded.  In other words, this publication deals with who is trading rather than what is being traded.

The data in this publication is based on Trade by Enterprise (TEC) data which the CSO supplies to Eurostat on an annual basis under EU Regulation 222/2009, which provides data on the size class and NACE activity sector of enterprises engaged in the export and import of goods in Ireland.

This release combines the previous CSO publications Trade by Enterprise Characteristics 2017 and Irish Traders and the UK 2017 into one single statistical release.

Data on exports and imports of goods which are collected by VIMA via the Intrastat survey and customs and VAT declarations are matched with the CSO’s Business Register to provide information on the NACE classification and size of the enterprises engaged in the trade of goods. 

For more information on the Intrastat and Extrastat systems, see the Methods page for External Trade statistics on the CSO website.  For more information on the CSO Business Register, see the Methods page for Business Demography, also on the CSO website.

Intrastat Collection Of Intra EU Trade Data

Extra-Stat, Collection Of Non-EU Trade Data

Business Demography

Goods Exports and Imports

The results presented in this publication include only enterprises whose value of exports or imports exceeds €5,000 in a calendar year.  This cut-off point was chosen in order to provide a more accurate representation of the trade in goods of the most significant enterprises engaged in goods exports and imports.

NACE classifications

The NACE sectors used to classify the enterprises in this publication are as follows


NACE Rev. 2
Agri-food  01-03 10-12
Pharmaceuticals    20, 21
Other Manufacturing and Construction  05-09, 13-19, 22-43
Wholesale/Retail      45-47
Services/Other      49-98.

For further detail and breakdown of NACE activity codes, see

Size classifications

The size classifications used to describe enterprise size in this publication are as follows:

Micro 0-9 employees
10-49 employees
Medium  50-249 employees
Large    250+ employees.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) referred to in the publication comprise enterprises in the micro, small and medium category.

Breakdown by partner country for small traders

For this publication the CSO has used VAT Recapitulative Statements, or VIES data (VAT Information Exchange System), to analyse the trading patterns of enterprises whose trade is below the Intrastat reporting threshold.  In the VIES system, enterprises report the VAT number of the partner company with whom they are trading, and from this information, the partner country of below threshold enterprises can be more accurately estimated. Separate identification of GB and NI traders is not possible using this data source.

Specific differences with monthly trade statistics

Trade in goods data is collected by VIMA at VAT number level, and when matched with the Business Register, it is then aggregated to enterprise level.  For this reason, there are fewer enterprises in these tables than VAT numbers registered.

The data in this publication matches the data sent by the CSO to Eurostat on a monthly basis, and so, it differs slightly from the sum of annual trade data in the CSO’s monthly trade statistical release.

Goods sent abroad and returned after repair and the parts used in the repair are not included in the data in this publication, as is required under Eurostat legislation.  Goods sent and received for repair are included as part of the CSO’s monthly trade statistical release.

The trade recorded here is on a ‘special trade’ basis, while the monthly trade statistical release is calculated on a ‘general trade’ basis.  Under the ‘general trade’ system exports and imports are recorded at the time the goods are moved across the boundary of the State. In particular this means that goods imported into a custom bonded warehouse are recorded at the time of entry into the country.  On a ‘special trade’ basis, goods are recorded as imported at the time of their release from the warehouse.

Definition of Import Country

The country of import of goods can be defined in two ways: country of origin or country of consignment. The country of origin is the country from which the goods originate. The country of consignment is the last Member State where a change has been made to the goods, for example, where there is a change of ownership of the goods, or goods are repackaged or further processed in some way. Note that in the case where the goods simply transit through a Member State, that Member State is not recorded in the trade statistics at all.

For example, if French wine is imported by an Irish company from France then the country of consignment and origin will both be France. This is the case even if the goods are transit through the UK. However, if French wine is initially purchased by a UK wholesaler and subsequently exported to Ireland this will be recorded as an import in our trade statistics with France as the country of origin and the UK as the country of consignment.

The CSO’s monthly statistical release records imports by country of origin.  The data which the CSO transmits to Eurostat, and is published on its COMEXT database, are recorded by country of consignment.

It is important to note that the value of our total imports is the same when the two different methodologies are used.  The only difference is the country which we record as the one from which the good is imported.

It is also important to note that this difference only affects imports.  Our exports are recorded by country of final destination; the last country to which the goods are specifically directed. 

Go to Additional Indicators