Export volumes of Scotch whisky edged up 3.1 per cent in the first half of the year – the first increase since 2013 – but there are some parts of the world where sales are growing even more rapidly.
According to the latest figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the equivalent of 533 million 70cl bottles of Scotch were shipped to customers around the world during the first six months of 2016, up from 517 million bottles a year ago.
France remained the top destination for Scotland’s national drink, with exports to the “Auld Alliance” partner increasing 5 per cent to 90.9 million bottles, although the US – the second-largest overseas market – saw volumes decline 3 per cent to 53.1 million bottles.
In terms of value, the US is by far the most valuable customer for Scotch, snapping up some £357.4m worth of the “water of life” in the first half – a rise of 9 per cent on a year earlier. In contrast, the value of sales to France, in second place, dropped 5 per cent to £193.1m.
SWA chief executive David Frost says: “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.
“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. We are working closely with our members and government to ensure the industry’s trade priorities are well understood, to promote open markets, and to identify opportunities to grow our exports in the future.”
The uncertainties of the Brexit vote will create challenges for exportersDavid Frost
Looking at the top 20 overseas markets for Scotch, India is the third-largest, buying 41 million bottles in the first half, but saw the biggest rise in volumes – up 41 per cent despite an eye-watering 150 per cent tariff on imports.
Only five other markets within the top 20 recorded double-digit volume growth in the first half:
A vibrant industry of its own – sparked by a doctor’s daughter from Kirkintilloch – has not prevented the Japanese from snapping up whisky produced here. Scotch export volumes were up 20 per cent in the first six months of the year to reach 13.1 million bottles.
With an estimated 40,000 Poles living north of the Border, it appears those who have settled here have helped instil a love for our national drink back home, where first-half sales also rose by 20 per cent.
As well as being one of Europe’s biggest sources of foreign direct investment into the UK, the Netherlands is helping to give Scotland’s whisky industry a lift, with export volumes growing by 17 per cent.
The south-east Asian nation may have lent its name to a gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling, but it seems the city-state is also partial to a Scotch or two. Or more precisely 18.6 million bottles in the first half of the year, an increase of 15 per cent on the same period in 2015.
The Baltic state is one of biggest consumers of alcohol in the European Union, with data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and World Health Organisation showing the average resident drank 13.2 litres in 2010 – that compares with 10.2 litres in the UK and a mere 6.9 litres in Italy. Exports of Scotch to Latvia were up 10 per cent in the first half.
Among smaller overseas markets, the SWA identified some even more dramatic increases, with volumes shipped to Nigeria soaring more than 200 per cent, while exports to Venezuela jumped 74 per cent and sales to Chile grew some 30 per cent.
While the SWA notes that the fall in the value of the pound following the EU referendum on 23 June would not have made itself felt in its latest figures, the trade body says: “The exchange rate impact should offer some positive conditions for exports to offset to some degree other disruptive factors in the market.”