Exports of Scotch whisky broke the £2 billion (€1.46bn) barrier for the tenth successive year in 2002, a year which also marked the third best performance ever for the industry, according to figures released earlier this week by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
Nearly £2.3 billion worth of whisky was shipped to 200 countries, and there was a particularly strong performance from malt whisky, which lifted sales in both volume terms (+9.3 per cent to 46.5 million bottles) and value terms, which grew 11 per cent to £268 million.
SWA chairman Ian Good said that 90 per cent of Scotch was consumed abroad and the latest figures represented a "resilient performance in the face of tough global conditions - that is good news for jobs (65,000 jobs across the UK depend on Scotch production) and the Scottish economy."
Good continued: "The industry continues to perform strongly in established markets like the US, France and South Korea, but it is also encouraging to see increased volumes shipped to new, emerging markets such as China, Poland and Turkey. Although currently small Scotch markets, they offer enormous potential and our efforts to remove trade barriers there and elsewhere, such as India, continue. Today's figures bode well for the future health of the industry."
Good said that another exciting trend was the welcome rise of malt whisky sales, reflecting the efforts of distillers to offer malts with different styles and characteristics to appeal to a range of people.
He said that while overall volumes were down slightly for the year, the industry remained confident that sales in markets like South America and Japan would prosper again as their economies recovered.
In value terms, sales remained level, but there were impressive increases for certain key markets, such as South Korea and Taiwan, where sales surged by 18 per cent to £196 million and 16.5 per cent to £58 million respectively. The US reclaimed top spot as the industry's most valuable market, having been displaced by Spain in 1999, with exports rising 4 per cent to over £300 million.
Global economic difficulties did, however, have a knock-on effect on the volume of exports, which fell by 6.9 per cent to 943.4 million bottles.
In the UK, assisted by five years of duty freezes that have brought stability to the market (but which have also not prevented the SWA from repeating its annual call for further cuts in duty), Scotch held firm overall at 9.5 million cases. Again, malt whisky enjoyed good growth, rising 14 per cent to 891,904 cases or 10.7 million bottles. The total UK market for Scotch was 114.6 million bottles.