STRONG demand from the United States and a bounce-back in France helped Scotch whisky exports to hit nearly £2 billion in the opening half of the year, overcoming the slowdown in the Chinese market.
Communist party officials have been cracking down on the giving of extravagant gifts, with exports to China dropping by 20 per cent to £24.8 million.
But Americans continued to sate their thirst for Scotland’s national drink, with sales soaring by 29 per cent to £391m, cementing the US’s position as the largest export market by value.
Demand rebounded in France, rising by 6 per cent to £198.8m as the market recovered from wholesalers stocking up ahead of a rise in duty.
Spain also began a fight-back, with sales up by 11 per cent to £81.8m as the market recovers from the eurozone debt crisis, which led to austerity measures, high unemployment and a drop in consumer spending.
Overall, exports for the six months to 30 June rose to £1.98bn from £1.78bn during the opening half of 2012.
Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which compiled the data, said: “While these figures provide a snapshot of what is happening with exports, the industry is confident this expansion will continue.
“Significant new investment in the industry in Scotland by producers reflects the belief that growth will be sustainable.”
Diageo – Scotland’s largest distiller and the owner of brands such as Bell’s, J&B and Johnnie Walker – last year unveiled a £1bn investment in its distilleries and stock, laying down casks to meet the rising demand from fast-growing emerging markets.
Part of the investment will include building a second
“super-distillery” – at Alness in the Highlands – following the opening of the Roseisle site near Elgin in 2010. The Alness site will become the largest malt distillery in the country.
Rival Pernod Ricard – which owns Chivas Brothers, Scotland’s second-biggest whisky producer and the maker of The Glenlivet – has also unveiled plans to build a major facility, near Carron, in Speyside, on the site of the former Imperial distillery.
The SWA pointed out that trade agreements with a number of countries in Latin America came into force last month, providing “a further boost to exports to the region through an end to import tariffs and creation of fairer tax arrangements”.
Hewitt added: “Scotch whisky continues to be vital for the UK’s export-led recovery.
Developments such as new trade deals help ensure success will continue.”
Sales to Mexico jumped by 67 per cent to £53m, while Brazil posted a 42 per cent rise to £49.4m and Venezuela edged ahead by 9 per cent to £46.2m.
Singapore – which acts as a distribution hub for many fast-growing markets in Asia – posted a 19 per cent rise to £173.8m, helping to balance out some of the Chinese losses and an 18 per cent fall in Taiwan to £65.4m.