SCOTCH whisky exports have dropped by more than a tenth, new figures have shown.
Anti-extravagance measures in China, economic slowdown in some markets and a stronger pound sterling have been cited as reasons for the decline by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
While Scotch whisky exports to some key markets, such as France and Taiwan, increased in the first six months of 2014, the overall trend was downwards.
After a decade of fast growth for the industry, exports in the first half of 2014 were £1.77 billion, down 11 per cent from £1.99 billion in the same period last year.
The SWA said it has confidence in the long-term future of Scotch, with many projects for new distilleries under way and up to £2 billion of capital investment in Scotland committed by producers.
SWA chief executive David Frost said: “We are confident that Scotch whisky will continue to grow in the long-term as markets stabilise and new ones, such as emerging economies across Africa, open up.
“However, it is clear that in the short run there are economic headwinds affecting exports.
“The latest figures also act as a reminder that the success of Scotch whisky can’t be taken for granted.
“We need support from government to beat down trade barriers and help us access new markets overseas.
“That is why we are determined to play a full part in the forthcoming debate about further devolution, so that it enables a supportive business environment to ensure the future success of Scotch whisky.”
Exports to France grew by 3 per cent to 86 million bottles, making it the biggest market by volume, and by 6 per cent to £211 million to put it in second place, behind the US, in terms of value.
Exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were up 26 per cent to £54 million, with the area acting as a distribution hub for parts of Africa, Asia and India.
Australia was up 4 per cent to £37 million while growth of 31 per cent was recorded in the Indian market. There was growth in several other top 20 markets, notably Taiwan, Canada and Japan.
But there was decline in many major markets in Asia and the Americas, for example China, Singapore, the US, Brazil and Mexico.
The SWA said this was was due to a mixture of reasons, including anti-extravagance measures in China, a crackdown on government spending and gift-giving aimed at stamping out widespread corruption.
Economic slowdown in some markets, a stronger pound sterling and de-stocking were also cited as reasons for the fall.
Food Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Scotch whisky is an iconic product, though I recognise it is not immune from wider current economic difficulties across the globe.
“I welcome the industry’s confidence in the long-term future of Scotch whisky and its continued commitment to £2 billion of capital investment in Scotland.
“I look forward to working with the industry to develop new and existing markets, in line with the Scotland Food & Drink Export Plan, and as we work towards the further devolution of powers promised by the UK Government and others in the past few days.”