22 Sep Scotch whisky exports ‘up for first time in three years’

The amount of Scotch whisky sold overseas has increased for the first time since 2013, according to the latest industry figures.

The equivalent of 533 million bottles were shipped from Scotland in the first six months of 2016.

But industry bosses have warned the “uncertainties” caused by Brexit will pose “challenges” for exporters.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the 3.1% increase represented the first return to growth for three years.

However, the statistics also showed a small fall in the value of exports.

Sales of whisky around the globe amounted to £1.7bn between January and June, down by 1% on the same period in 2015.

While France and the USA remained the biggest market, the figures showed a surge in exports to India.

SWA chief executive David Frost said the figures suggested there had been a “strengthening in global consumer demand”.

But he also highlighted “continued international uncertainty” as he urged the UK government to ensure a supportive tax and regulatory regime.

‘Well-placed to grow’

Mr Frost said: “The first half of 2016 was marked by an improving Scotch whisky export performance, suggesting a strengthening in global consumer demand compared to the last couple of years.

“The industry-wide emphasis on craftsmanship and provenance, backed by investment, means that Scotch exports are well-placed to grow in the future, appealing to consumers in both mature and emerging markets.”

But he added: “It is clear, however, that the uncertainties of the Brexit vote will create challenges for exporters and we continue to encourage early clarity on the likely shape of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU and other countries.

“Given the continued international uncertainty, we also look to government to make every effort to put in place a competitive domestic tax and regulatory environment, supporting a key home-grown industry.”

While the volume of whisky exported to other countries in the European Union increased by 5% to the equivalent of 208 million bottles in January to June 2016, the value of these fell by 1% to £518m.

Almost two fifths (39%) of Scotch whisky exports by volume went to the EU, while the US was still the largest market for whisky exports by value, with sales worth £357.4m in the period January to June, a rise of 9% from the first half of 2015.

But the largest volume of sales went to France, with exports increasing from the equivalent of 86.5 million bottles in the first six months of 2015 to the equivalent of 90.9 million bottles in the same period this year.

The equivalent of 41 million bottles were exported to India after a 41% increase in sales volumes.

Diageo, the dominant distilling company, recently took over the largest distiller in India. Having access to the United Spirits distribution network helps to explain the sale of 12m more bottles than last year.

Most of that was in bulk, for bottling in India, or blending with Indian whiskies, but there was also a rise by more than half in the amount of single malt whisky shipped to India, reaching more than 700,000 bottles.

Ten of the top 15 markets showed growth in the latest figures.

The Latin American market showed continued volatility, with Colombian sales up 22%, Chilean up 30% and Venezuelan by 74%. Yet in Colombia and Venezuela, because the mix of whiskies shifted to lower quality, the value fell. The total value for Latin America was down 11%, with volume up 5%.

Africa has shown promise in recent years, but that fell back 9% by volume. Sales to South Africa dominate sales to the continent, but the figures suggest increases of more than half in exports to Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Uganda. Shipments to Angola, which has suffered the economic consequences of the oil price downturn, reduced by three-quarters.

These figures do not include UK sales, which account for roughly 7% of Scotch whisky production.

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