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Scotch whisky exports rise by 31%

The value of Scotch whisky exports was up by a third in the first half of 2021, as the industry starts to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and US tariffs.

Scotch whisky barrels
The Scotch whisky sector reported ‘very promising’ export figures in H1

According to figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the value of Scotch whisky exports increased 31% during H1 compared to the same period in 2020. Volume for the period rose by 42%.

However, the SWA said exports remain down by 10% in value when compared to 2019, when record export figures were recorded.

In 2020, the value of Scotch whisky exports fell by £1.1 billion (US$1.5bn) to its lowest level in a decade.

Exports of Scotch to the EU decreased in the first three months of 2021 compared to 2019, as a result of lockdowns and new post-Brexit trading arrangements.

But the SWA noted that EU exports rose at a faster rate in the second quarter of 2021 than the same period two years ago.

Meanwhile, the Asian market flourished. In the first half of 2021, China had already exceeded the £89m (US$122.4m) exported in the whole of 2019 – climbing 126% to £91m (US$125m).

The US, which remains the biggest export market for Scotch, saw total exports fall by a third to £729m in 2020 as a result of tariffs on single malts. For the first six months of this year, US exports of Scotch were down by 34% when compared to the same period in 2019.

The SWA said that while the US tariff on single malts was suspended for five years, the industry will ‘take time, investment and support for exports to the US to regain their strength following a devastating 16 months’.

Karen Betts, outgoing chief executive of the SWA, said: “The pace of recovery of Scotch whisky exports is very promising. Last year, the combination of US tariffs and Covid-19 brought Scotch whisky exports to their lowest level in a decade, so it’s encouraging to see them start to regain strength.

“But like many other sectors, Scotch whisky companies are feeling the ongoing impacts of trade disruption on our supply chain and global distribution, and the cost of goods and services has risen significantly. In addition, international tourism is yet to recover and global hospitality is some way from emerging from the impact of the pandemic.”

The SWA is calling on the UK government to fulfil its promises made during the autumn budget, including completing the review of alcohol duty and ensuring Scotch is “treated fairly against other categories of alcohol”.

Betts added: “As we continue to wait for this promise to be delivered, there are other opportunities the government can pursue to boost the industry’s recovery in global markets. Reducing the 150% tariff on Scotch whisky in India must be the UK government’s top priority when trade negotiations begin later this year.”

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