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Irish whiskey exports hit €1bn for first time

The value of Irish whiskey exports surpassed €1 billion (US$1.07bn) for the first time in 2022, according to new data.

The IWA is calling for the progression of trade agreements to remove tariffs on Irish whiskey

The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) revealed the figure based on Central Statistics Office/Eurostat data from Ireland and member data from Northern Ireland.

The trade body said export value represented a more accurate picture of the contribution to the all-island economy than global retail value.

The IWA assessed the 2021 export value for the category to be in the region of €850 million (US$912m), however figures were not available on an all-island basis.

William Lavelle, director of the IWA, stated: “Breaking €1bn in export value represents another important milestone in the Irish whiskey renaissance and confirms the importance of our unique all-island industry to our shared economy, north and south.

“Across the island of Ireland, the growth in Irish whiskey exports has created more quality jobs, brought more investment into regional and rural communities, and led to more purchasing from Irish farmers.”

The IWA’s 2022 Irish Whiskey Global international trade report, published in October last year, noted that export growth was driven by the global demand for premium, higher-priced Irish whiskey, rapid market diversification, the rise of e-commerce and increased interest from Millennials and Gen Z.

According to the report, 2021 was a year of rebound for Irish whiskey with a record 14m cases sold globally. Irish whiskey saw sales rise by 21% in 2021 when compared with 2020.

Irish whiskey recorded double- and triple-digit growth in a range of emerging markets in 2021, from Australia to Africa and Asia, the report noted.

The report identified 10 emerging markets to watch for future export growth: China/Hong Kong, Israel, Austria, Nigeria, New Zealand, Turkey, South Korea, India, Kenya and Mexico.

2023 priorities

For 2023, Lavelle said the IWA was “reiterating its call for the proactive expansion” of free trade agreements (FTAs) to “support the continuing growth of Irish whiskey exports”.

The IWA has identified several key priorities for 2023, including the protection of free trade from the US and the avoidance of future trade disputes regarding inflation, and steel and aluminium.

It also highlighted the completion of EU trade negotiations with Australia and Kenya, and EU and UK trade talks with India, with the aim of lowering tariffs. The UK and Australia secured a FTA that removed tariffs on spirits in December 2021.

The IWA report described Kenya as the most accessible market for Irish whiskey in East Africa. Irish whiskey had faced a 25% tariff, but in 2022 this increased to 35%.

The trade body also called for progression of the proposed FTA between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American markets (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) following the election of president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil.

In the October 2022 issue of The Spirits Business, we explored trade barriers for the Irish whiskey category.

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