Scotch whisky needs political support

11 April, 2014

Scotch whisky exports remained flat at £4.3 billion in 2013 as surging sales in the USA made up for declines in Asian markets.

Exports to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan all fell in value by between 13% and 15%, while China fell out of the top 20 markets, with exports sliding 30% to £51m.

But Scotch whisky sales shot up 8% in the USA and the category enjoyed double-digit growth in Brazil, Mexico and Poland.

It represents 85% of Scottish food and drink exports and nearly a quarter of the British total.

The UK has 270 diplomatic posts in 160 countries and uses, this network to promote British businesses, but if Scotland votes for independence the new nation would have just 70-90 overseas embassies and consulates.

Chief executive David Frost said: “As a former ambassador, I know that the industry also depends on strong political support from government, for example to influence European Union negotiations on our behalf or to press other countries to allow better access to their markets. 

“Both the UK and Scottish Governments have played an important role in this so far.

“Whatever the outcome of the Scottish referendum, as an industry exporting to around 200 markets we will continue to need the backing of an effective diplomatic network with the necessary global reach, commercial expertise, and capacity to influence.”

The benefits of Britain remaining in the EU were also highlighted by the SWA when it said: “In Poland, exports grew 38% to £60m. Scotch exports to that market are around 10 times as big as when Poland joined the EU in 2004.” 

Scotch volume exports rose narrowly from 1.2 billion bottles in 2012 to 1.3 billion bottles in 2013.

It is Scotland’s largest export after oil and gas.

Frost said: “Scotch whisky exports remain strong and the industry’s impressive performance makes a major contribution to the UK’s trade performance. The unprecedented investment programmes in Scotch whisky by producers show that in the long term they are confident that demand will continue to grow. 

“However, in the short run, there are some economic headwinds.  Formal and informal barriers to trade remain.  We should remember that the industry’s success does not come automatically but is based on hard work, investment and careful stewardship.”

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