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Scotch exports top £5.6bn in 2023

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has revealed that Scotch whisky exports were up 14% by value last year when compared with 2019 figures.

Scotch whisky barrels
Exports fell by £600m on the previous year

The total global export figures exceeded £5.6 billion (US$7bn) in 2023, with the equivalent of around 1.35bn 700ml bottles exported.

The figures are a decrease on 2022, which was described as a ‘bumper’ year as global markets reopened and restocked following the pandemic. The Scotch export market broke records in 2022 and exceeded £6bn (US$7.5bn) for the first time.

Compared with 2022, Scotch exports were down 9.5% by value and down 19% by volume. However when compared with 2019 – ie, prior to the pandemic – exports were up 14% by value and up 3% by volume.

Exports by market

Asia-Pacific continued to be the largest regional market by value. Exports to China totalled £235 million (US$295m) and were 165% on 2019, although only up 1% on 2022. Singapore also saw double-digit growth from 2022, totalling £378m (US$475m) in 2023.

The US remained the largest national market by value, with exports totalling £978m (US$1.2bn). However this figure represented a decline of 7% on 2022 and of 9% on 2019. The SWA highlighted rising living costs in the US and the management of stock levels following restocking in 2022 and anticipates the dip to realign during 2024.

The SWA also pointed out that the reintroduction of tariffs on Scotch, imposed by the US in 2019 and then suspended for five years in 2021, could hinder the sector’s growth and urged the government to press for longer tariff-free trade.

France was the largest national market by volume, importing 174m bottles in 2023 – a 15% fall on 2022 but a 4% rise on 2019. The country overtook India, which became the biggest volume market for the first time in 2022 but this year fell by 24% to 167m bottles.

Tariffs could also hinder this market, with India currently imposing 150% tariffs on Scotch imports.

Bottled blended whiskies represented 55% of global exports by value, while single malts represented 36%.

Mark Kent, chief executive of the SWA, said: “Scotch whisky has once again shown its export strength despite significant challenges across a volatile global trading environment.

“The figures demonstrate that Scotch whisky brands and distilleries are investing in their teams, their tourism offering, their long-term sustainability and their global presence to ensure that Scotch continues to be the world’s favourite whisky.

“We know that the Scotch whisky industry is remarkably resilient as we look at these numbers against the backdrop of rising costs for consumers and businesses, but the figures are a reminder once again that the Scotch whisky success story cannot be taken for granted.

“We need to see more tangible support from government both at home and in our priority markets in order to continue to grow our export numbers, and the resultant investment, employment and economic benefits that come with that.

“A cut to spirits duty in the spring budget would be a step in the right direction, giving the industry platform at home to push forward with international growth.

“The government must also do away with any notion of restricting the marketing of Scotch whisky in Scotland, which would have a significant and lasting impact on the industry’s ability to generate future growth.”

The SWA recently revealed that the spirits duty hike had cost the UK government nearly £100 million (US$127.7m) in tax revenue.

Lord Offord, UK government minister for exports, said: “Scotch whisky is a major UK exporting success story, contributing billions of pounds to the economy and supporting thousands of jobs.

“We want the UK to be an export-led economy and reach £1 trillion of exports a year by 2030.

“It’s fantastic to see whisky exports in 2023 continuing to outperform pre-pandemic levels as businesses take advantage of our free trade deals and expand into new markets around the world.”

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