Irish exports surge to record high in August

* Exports up 16 percent m/m to 9.1 bln euros

* Seasonal factors inflate numbers to all-time high

* Economists say figures bode well for Q3 growth


DUBLIN, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Irish goods exports surged 16 percent in August to hit a record high on strong food and chemicals exports, which economists said could provide a boost to the economy in the third quarter.

Exports hit an all-time high of 9.1 billion euros on a seasonally adjusted basis, although the Central Statistics Agency said the number was distorted by the fact that businesses were dropping summer production levels less than in the past.

Without the seasonal weighting, exports were worth 8.3 billion euros, their highest level since March.

"These figures are very encouraging, and point to a stronger GDP performance in Q3 than in Q2," said Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Merrion Stockbrokers.

"The bottom line is that the export sector has been the main driver of Irish economic activity in recent times and will remain the key growth engine for some period to come."

Ireland's economy grew at a sharper pace than much of the euro zone last year, primarily due to its robust export sector.

That has added to hopes that Dublin may be the first of the governments bailed out in the debt crisis to get its public finances and economy back on track.

Demand from Irish consumers and businesses has fallen each year since 2008 due to high unemployment and government austerity, however.

Irish GDP was flat in the second quarter and a poll of economists said the economy would grow by 0.4 percent in the third quarter and by 0.5 percent over the year.

Compared to their levels last year, chemicals, including pharmaceutical products, were up 21 percent. Food exports were 8.5 percent higher on the year, while machinery was up 10.8 percent.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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