Scotch sales held back by Asia

Scotch whisky exports grew in 2013 according to figures published by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

In value terms, last year Scotch exports were relatively static at £4.3 billion, while volumes increased 3% to the equivalent of 1.3bn bottles in 2013, from 1.2bn bottles the previous year. 

While the overall picture was positive, direct exports to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan fell in value by between 13% and 15%. China fell out of the top 20 markets, with direct exports declining nearly 30% to £51m. 

Scotch sales to the USA grew 8% on 2012 to a record £819 million but France remains the largest volume market for Scotch. It was up 16% as it returned to normal following a tax hike on spirits at the start of 2012.

In India, the fourth biggest market by volume and fourteenth by value, exports were up 12% to £69m.

The SWA said it hopes the EU-India Free Trade Agreement negotiations will re-start following this year’s Indian elections, "leading to a reduction of the onerous 150% import tariff".

Exports to Brazil and Mexico grew by around 20% to £99m in Brazil and £110m in Mexico, where Scotch is now one of the UK’s fastest growing exports.

In Poland, exports grew 38% to £60m. Scotch exports to that market are around 10 times as big as when Poland joined the European Union in 2004, the SWA said.

Demand for single malt continues to grow, reported the SWA, with exports up 5% in 2013 to reach a record £820m, nearly a fifth of exports by value.  

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “Scotch Whisky exports remain strong and the industry’s impressive performance makes a major contribution to the UK’s trade performance. The unprecedented investment programmes in Scotch whisky by producers show that in the long term they are confident that demand will continue to grow.  

“However, in the short run, there are some economic headwinds. Formal and informal barriers to trade remain.  We should remember that the industry’s success does not come automatically but is based on hard work, investment and careful stewardship.

“As a former ambassador, I know that the industry also depends on strong political support from government, for example to influence European Union negotiations on our behalf or to press other countries to allow better access to their markets.  Both the UK and Scottish governments have played an important role in this so far. 

“Whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum, as an industry exporting to around 200 markets we will continue to need the backing of an effective diplomatic network with the necessary global reach, commercial expertise, and capacity to influence.”