World thirst for Scotch whisky

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: International trade

Rising exports to different corners of the world helped Scotch
whisky exports to reach their highest ever value in 2006, new
figures show.

A few toasts will no doubt have been raised around Scotland's distilleries this week, after industry figures revealed whisky exports in 2006 rose four per cent in value to £2.5bn. The rise means 2006 beat the previous record of £2.4bn in 1997, and confidence in the industry is rising fast, according to the Scotch Whisky Association. Whisky makers have profited from a better global trade environment and also the globalisation of the spirits market, David Williamson, of SWA, told​. He said it was also "very encouraging for industry to see strong growth in single malts"​. Single malts still only account for around a tenth of Scotch exports but they broke the £400m barrier for the first time in 2006. SWA's figures show Scotch has tapped in well to emerging markets in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe that have also boosted others in the alcoholic drinks industry, mainly brewers. Scotch exports to Venezuela grew 45 per cent in 2006, a somewhat ironic announcement after president Hugo Chavez banned alcohol sales in the country during Easter week. China entered the top 10 of Scotch export markets by value for the first time, after shipments rose 27 per cent to £58m last year. And, closer to home, Poland continued to emerge with a 42 per cent rise in shipments, albeit to only £10m. This, together with six and seven per cent rises in the US, France and Italy, helped to hold off significant declines in Spain. A six per cent drop in Scotch exports to India, to £24m, laid bare the problems drinks makers face over India's high import tariffs on wine and spirits, however. The European Commission, which has said India is in "blatant violation"​ of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, recently asked a WTO dispute panel to intervene. Both the US and Australia have also opened 'consultation' with India at WTO, the first stage of the dispute process. Williamson said there was "growing international pressure on India"​ and that "we hope India will take the opportunity to reform the system without WTO interference".​ A WTO ruling is expected by the end of 2008 at the latest.

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