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Single malt exports pass £1bn as Scotch returns to growth

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has confirmed that Scotch whisky exports grew 4% in 2016 following years of flat or declining development, with single malt values passing the £1 billion (US$1.3bn) mark for the first time.

Total export values for Scotch reached £4bn (US$5.2bn) as economic headwinds and political uncertainty ease in some markets.

Bottled blended Scotch, by far the largest category, saw its export values increase for the first time since 2012, climbing 1.4% to £2.75bn (US$3.5bn).

Single malts were a start performer, climbing 12% to pass the key £1bn threshold.

In total, Scotch was directly exported to 182 countries in 2016, up from 174. The EU remains the top region for exports, accounting for around £1.2bn (US$1.5bn), followed by North America and Asia which take shipments worth £1bn (US$1.3bn) and £768m (US$990) respectively.

US remained the top single market by value, with exports climbing 14% to £865m (US$1.1bn).

The figures confirm HMRC data released by Whisky Invest Direct in February 2017 which suggested Scotch whisky has enjoyed its strongest export year since 2013.

‘Continuing uncertainties’

While the SWA said the industry remains “optimistic” for the future of Scotch, the association noted the exports figures were bolstered by the impact of a weak pound following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

“This short-term positive currency impact should be seen in the context of continuing uncertainties around Brexit in the longer term,” the association warned.

The Scotch sector now accounts for more than one fifth of the UK’s food and drink exports, and remained the biggest net contributor to the UK’s balance in trade and goods. Without the industry, the SWA says the country’s trade deficit would have stood 2.8% larger at 2.8%.

In Scotland, Scotch accounts for 73% of all food and exports.

“With Scotch whisky exports returning to growth and rising to more than £4bn, and single malts exceeding £1bn for the first time, we’re feeling optimistic about the future,” said Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA acting chief executive.

“Demand is rising in mature markets, such as the USA, and newer markets, including China. This confidence is reflected in the number of new distilleries – 14 have been opened in the last few years and we know of about another 40 in at various stages of planning.

“However, we have to be alert to the challenges, as well as the opportunities, of Brexit and political changes in the UK and across the globe.  Industry success can’t be taken for granted and we need both the UK and Scottish Governments to work in partnership with us to deliver a business environment – at home and overseas – that supports sustainable growth.

“At home, for example, we are calling for a ‘sector deal’ for Scotch as the new UK industrial strategy develops, recognising  our economic significance to communities across the country. And we have clearly set out our objectives for Brexit to support jobs and growth in the industry in an increasingly competitive global market.”

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