Comment: Scotland is harnessing global markets

The Scotch whisky industry now accounts for 20 per cent of the UK's food and drink exports, says Walls. Picture: Yao Hui
The Scotch whisky industry now accounts for 20 per cent of the UK's food and drink exports, says Walls. Picture: Yao Hui
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The reputation of Scotland’s food and drink industry is recognised and appreciated across the globe and with overseas demand for our products continuing to grow, there’s a real opportunity for ambitious businesses to take advantage.

According to the most recent data from the Scottish Government, food and drink exports increased by almost £570 million since 2016, standing at £6 billion in 2017. The Scotch whisky industry is one of the largest contributors to this rise, with our national drink accounting for 20 per cent of the UK’s food and drink exports.

This month, the Scotch Whisky Association said exports of the spirit reached a record high of £4.36bn in 2018, showing the increase in the industry’s presence in new markets and emerging economies. Whisky exports to India, for example, rose by 34 per cent last year.

This is an encouraging trend that could be replicated across other areas of the Scottish food and drink industry. Embracing opportunities in new, potentially unfamiliar parts of the world is a great way to unlock additional sources of revenue, and makes a business more resilient to fluctuating trading conditions, both domestically and in the UK’s traditional export markets. Exporters should be aware of cultural differences, legislative changes and social factors. These can easily be navigated successfully by practicing diligence and engaging the right support.

There are several resources businesses can access to help them export into new markets. Bank of Scotland’s International Trade Portal, for example, helps businesses identify the markets best-suited to their products and services. It provides information on factors like trade tariffs and links exporters with potential buyers.

There are also financial measures exporters can use to trade with confidence. Export finance, available both pre- and post-shipment, can finance the production of export goods and bridge the gap between a business receiving an order and payment, easing the pressure on cashflow and helping firms take advantage of new opportunities at short notice.

UK Export Finance (UKEF) is another useful resource. Bank of Scotland works in partnership with the government agency through our Export Working Capital Scheme, helping businesses access funding to support contracts with overseas buyers. UKEF guarantees up to 80 per cent of the limit of working capital facilities provided through the scheme.

Scotland’s whisky industry continues to flourish and, while each exporting journey will be different, having sound advice is always vital. Bank of Scotland has advisers are on hand for every stage of the process and has committed to providing up to £1.6bn of lending this year to support Scottish businesses prosper at home and overseas.

- Colin Walls, regional trade director at Bank of Scotland