* March export orders +1.2% y/y vs +3.55% Reuters poll forecast

* Orders from China +7.7% y/y vs -5.5% in prior month

* Ministry sees April orders between +1.2% and +5.9% y/y

* Ministry upbeat on AI demand

TAIPEI, April 22 (Reuters) - Taiwan's export orders rose less than expected in March, but the government said it expected surging demand for artificial intelligence (AI) applications to fuel future demand for the island's high-tech products.

Export orders last month climbed 1.2% from a year earlier to $47.16 billion, the economy ministry said on Monday, missing the 3.55% gain that was forecast in a Reuters poll. Orders were down 10.4% in February.

Orders for goods from Taiwan, home to tech giants such as chip manufacturer TSMC, are a bellwether of global technology demand.

"Demand for AI, high-performance computing (HPC) and cloud industry continued to increase, while traditional goods demand has yet to recover significantly," the economy ministry said in a statement.

Looking ahead, the ministry said it expects that export orders in April would rise between 1.2% and 5.9% from a year earlier.

The ministry cited risks including the impact of high interest rates in the United States and Europe, China-U.S. trade disputes and broader geopolitical uncertainty.

However, "demand for new applications such as HCP and AI is rising, boosting demand for our semiconductor and servers supply chain and helping to support momentum of export orders", it added.

The first part of the year is traditionally the low season for orders for the island's high-tech goods.

Taiwan's orders in March for telecommunication products rose 4.3% from the prior year, while electronic products jumped 12.0% on year, it said.

Orders from China rose 7.7% versus a 5.5% drop in the prior month. Orders from the United States were down 2.2%, narrowing from a 5.8% decline logged in February.

Orders from Europe fell 6.2%, improving on February's 35.6% fall.

From Japan, orders fell 18.0% last month, versus a contraction of 28% in February. (Reporting by Roger Tung and Faith Hung; Editing by Sharon Singleton)