Decline in Scotch whisky exports 'slowing'

The decline in Scotch whisky exports is slowing, as industry exports in the first half of the year totalled £1.7 billion.

Overall, export volumes are down by half of last year’s decline, falling just under 3% to the equivalent of 517 million bottles, according to the latest Scotch Whisky Association figures.

The 3% decline in the value of Scotch whisky exports in first six months of 2015 is considerably smaller than the 11% fall reported between the first half of 2013 and 2014.

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “We’re starting to see some strong signals for growth and we continue to believe the long-term prospects for Scotch whisky remain good. This is reflected in the large number of new distilleries opening, with half a dozen starting production in the last year or so.

“The growth of Single Malt exports – up 55% to £406m in the first half of this year - shows that premium products are ever more popular.  We had a decade of record growth, there was then a decline in exports in recent years largely because of the slowdown in the emerging markets, but signs of improvement are on the horizon."

In North America, exports to the USA remained steady at £327m. Single Malts and premium blends are reportedly doing particularly well as consumers seek out quality. In Canada, the same trends drove an increase of 20% to £36m.

Despite austerity measures in China, the market returned to growth with direct exports jumping 46% to £22m in the first half of the year. This principally reflects the strong efforts made to export bottled Blended Scotch, up 42%.

Exports to Japan are up 7.2% to £35m, after many years of decline. The increased interest in heritage among whisky consumers is said to be benefiting Scotch.

In other markets the trading environment is more volatile, the SWA said. In Europe, France and Spain exports were up in volume but down in value. Germany was down in both value and volume, but some of this is likely to reflect a fall in re-exports to Russia. Brighter spots were Poland, up 45% in value to £20m, Turkey, up 28% to £23m, and Italy, up marginally after years of decline.

Outside Europe, the Brazilian market was badly hit, down nearly 30% in value because of the severe economic downturn and consequent weakening of the Real by a third since the start of the year. Sanctions and economic developments in Russia have knocked it out of the top 20 markets altogether.

Exports to India fell 11% by value and 8% by volume, reflecting ongoing difficulties in the business climate, though India remains the fourth biggest market by volume. A resumption and conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement negotiations is needed if sustained export growth is to take place in India, the SWA said.