Recovery fears after slump in Scottish exports
The quarterly Index of Manufactured Exports yesterday revealed the volume of goods sold overseas in 2012 had dropped by 2.9 per cent over the past 12 months – driven by a 16.6 per cent slump in exports of metal and fabricated metal products.
However, food, drink and tobacco exports, including Scotch whisky, remained steady, rising slightly by just 0.6 per cent over the year and experiencing an 8.5 per cent increase during the third quarter of 2012. Wood, paper, publishing and printing also suffered a significant drop, 8.6 per cent, over the year, while textiles, clothing and leather followed closely behind with a 7.5 per cent slump.
A separate study, the Scottish Global Connections survey, based on value of sales rather than volume and published in January, showed exports had shot up to £23.9 billion in 2011.
But the majority of the rise was believed to be due to an increase in the wholesale price of natural gas, boosting the fortunes of exports of bulk chemicals, ethylene and other hydrocarbon derivatives.
Yesterday’s numbers showed a 1.4 per cent drop in export volumes in the final three months of 2012, mainly driven by contractions in the chemicals, coke, refined petroleum products and nuclear fuel sectors.
Finance secretary John Swinney said: “Challenging global economic conditions continue to make it a trying time for Scotland’s export industries, which is why the Scottish Government is working closely with Scottish Development International, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to support companies to expand and reach out to new markets.”
“Scotland’s food and drink industry continues to thrive on the international stage, showing that our excellent natural larder and reputation for high-quality produce is celebrated around the world.
“By continuing to invest in and increase exports, we can help build sustainable economic growth for Scotland and highlight the country’s position as a place of international trade and investment.”
Figures due out today will reveal whether the UK has entered a triple-dip recession. Last week’s GDP figures revealed Scotland’s economy grew 0.5 per cent from October to December, while the UK economy contracted by 0.3 per cent over the same period.
CBI Scotland’s David Lonsdale said: “The dip in the fortunes of our exporters during the final quarter of 2012 and indeed over last year as a whole is disappointing. However, it will hopefully prove short-lived as our own Scottish manufacturing survey – published earlier this week – reported a slight uptick in export orders in the first three months of this year, and improving confidence levels amongst industry over its export prospects for the year ahead.”
Andy Hall, head of corporate banking at Barclays Scotland, added: “Performance was unsurprisingly subdued at the end of last year but, while manufacturers continue to struggle against economic headwinds, we are seeing increased confidence and investment in the sector.
“Concerns over a triple-dip recession could be realised this week. However, the weakening of sterling against the euro following Fitch’s downgrade should actually be beneficial for UK exporters.”