Western Europe was the major culprit, with Spain slipping -25% in value (from £259.2m to £195.3m) and -20% in volume (from 74.8m 9-litre case to 60m cases) and France fell -19% in value (£535.4m to £434m) and -25% in volumes (from 205.3m cases to 153.9m cases) .
Though France’s weak performance in 2012 was in part mitigated by unfavourable comparisons with 2011, a bumper year when French buyers stocked up on Scotch ahead of excise duty rises.
The US market offset the damage with a 16% value increase to £758m, maintaining its place as the sector’s top export market by value.
As the gateway to many Asian markets, Singapore rose 7% by value but only 2% by volume and despite much media attention, China remains only the 14th largest scotch market by volume – growing by just 4% to 22.9m cases - and the 15th by value at £71.5m, an 8% increase.
Germany’s rise of 13% by value to £188.8m and 5% by volume to 52.5m cases was one of the few bright stories to emerge from Western Europe but Eastern Europe’s consumption showed promise, albeit from smaller bases, with Latvia growing 48% to £79.1m and Estonia growing 28% in value to £69.4 during the period and 10% in volume to 16.6m cases.
Though the SWA attributed Estonia’s rapid increase to its “route-to-market networks” and said “much of those exports are shipped onto Russia”.
Unexpectedly Brazil tumbled in value -16% to £83.6m and -2% in volumes to 46.1m cases but the Latin American story wasn’t all bad with Mexico now the ninth largest consumer of Scotch with volume growth of 11% to 35.3m cases and Venezuela in 11th with volume growth of 12% to 31.7m cases.
India, where Scotch is constrained by a 150% tax levy on imported spirits, showed signs of its future strength with 5% volume increases and 17% value rises.
The SWA reports that negotiations between the European Union and India on the Free Trade Agreement are on-going and will lead to a reduction in” the onerous 150% import tariff”.
Results for the sector may have been mixed but a 1% increase amounts to sales of £4.3 billion in 2012, an increase of 87% in the last 10 years.
According to the SWA, scotch makes up a quarter of UK food and drink exports.
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “A combination of successful trade negotiations, excellent marketing by producers, growing demand from mature markets, particularly the USA, and the growing middle class in emerging economies helped exports hit a record £4.3 billion last year.
“There is confidence in the future of the industry, illustrated by the £2 billion capital investment that Scotch Whisky producers have committed over the next three to four years. New distilleries have opened and older ones brought back to use to meet rising demand.”
For a ranking of the top 20 markets by sales value and volume click here.