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Scotch whisky exports rise 19% in 2021

Exports of Scotch whisky returned to growth last year with a double-digit increase but failed to reach pre-pandemic levels.

Scotch whisky
Scotch whisky exports rose by double digits in volume and value last year

New figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) revealed the category’s exports rose by 19% to £4.51 billion (US$6.1bn) last year.

In 2020, Scotch exports hit their lowest levels in a decade because of the pandemic and US-imposed tariffs. The SWA said Scotch exports remained 8% lower on 2019 levels, when the category’s value reached £4.91bn (US$6.3bn).

The number of 700ml bottles exported in 2021 grew by 13%, equal to 1.38bn bottles.

SWA chief executive Mark Kent, who took over the role from Karen Betts last month, said: “The global footprint of the industry in 2021 is a clear sign that the Scotch whisky industry is on the road to recovery.

“Value and volume are both up as consumers return to bars and restaurants, people return to travel and tourism, and we all return to a degree of normality after a period of enormous uncertainty for consumers and business.”

The double-digit growth was driven by Asia Pacific and Latin America, up by 21% and 71% respectively.

The SWA also noted strong growth in key emerging markets for Scotch, including India (up by 42.9% in value), China (up by 84.9% in value) and Brazil, which exported 82m bottles – an increase of 80.5%.

In the US – the category’s largest market by value – exports grew by 8%, despite the first quarter of 2021 being affected by the 25% tariff on single malt Scotch, the SWA said. The US tariff on single malts was suspended for five years in June 2021.

Exports to the EU also increased by 8% in 2021.

‘No time for complacency’

Kent added: “Scotch whisky growth in global markets means more jobs and investment across Scotland and the UK supply chain.

“The industry has continued to invest in its production sites, tourist attractions and workforce to ensure that Scotch whisky remains at the heart of a dynamic international spirits market and attracts new consumers around the world.

“But this is no time for complacency. The industry continues to face global challenges, including ongoing trade disruption, growing supply chain costs and inflationary pressures, and undoubtedly there is some road to run before exports return to pre-pandemic levels.”

He called on the UK and Scottish governments to help the sector recover through “global opportunities”, such as the UK-India trade talks, parity in the alcohol duty system and more investment in sustainability.

Last year, the UK government pledged £11.3 million (US$15.1m) to support four distillery sustainability projects as part of the second phase of its green fund.

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