VIETNAM could be the next hot-spot for whisky exports after a European Union free trade agreement (FTA) is hammered out with the country later this year, industry chiefs say.
David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), said he had high hopes for medium-term growth in the Asian country.
“It’s still quite early days, in relative terms Vietnam is quite small for the industry. But the economy is booming,” he said.
“The country is attracting lots of investment that might have previously gone to China. Everybody is excited about the prospects.”
Frost said that like other emerging markets, Vietnam had a growing middle class wanting western products with cachet. “We want to capitalise on that.”
The SWA said Vietnamese whisky sales surged to £3.5 million from £1m over the past five years. “Sales have more than tripled, so who knows where it may end up,” Frost added.
The SWA boss, who took office in January 2014, said final talks between the EU and the Vietnamese government to put an FTA in place were now being held.
“My guess is it will happen in the second half of this year, and I plan to head out to see what the opportunities are for the industry when the deal is in place,” Frost added.
“The great thing about a free trade agreement is that it does not just bring down tariffs, it brings predictability to the whole business environment of a country.”
The Scotch trade body announced last week that a weaker global economic backdrop and political volatility contributed to a 7 per cent fall in Scotch whisky export sales to £3.95 billion in 2014 from £4.26bn the previous year.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE SCOTSMAN’S BUSINESS BRIEFING