Signs have emerged that the pressures on the Scotch whisky industry may be easing, with new figures showing the decline in exports has slowed sharply.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) revealed today that the value of exports in the first half of 2015 fell 3 per cent to £1.7 billion, compared with a deeper 11 per cent slide in the same six months of 2014.
The SWA said the “encouraging trends” in several key markets were despite “continuing economic headwinds, political uncertainty in some parts of the world, and the impact of a stronger pound in many areas”.
Premium single malt exports by value rose 5 per cent to £406 million.
Overall, the volume of exports globally was down by half of last year’s decline, falling just under 3 per cent to the equivalent of 517 million bottles.
Exports to the United States, the biggest market by value for Scotch whisky, held steady at £326.5m, while exports to Mexico, rose 12 per cent to £43m.
Major whisky businesses including market leaders Diageo and Pernod Ricard’s Chiva Regal have suffered from the downturn in many emerging markets in recent months, particularly China.
Diageo, owner of brands such as Johnnie Walker, admitted in September that the strong pound would knock its profits by £150m this year – £50m more than previously expected.
But the data from the SWA showed the Chinese market returned to growth in the first half, with direct exports jumping 46 per cent to £22m. Exports of blended Scotch to China leapt 42 per cent.
Exports to Japan lifted 7.2 per cent. “After many years of decline, it is exciting to see the market [Japan] grow again on the back of renewed interest in whisky,” the SWA said.
The trading environment was more volatile elsewhere, with Germany down in both value and volume, and France and Spain up in volume but down in value.