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Resilient Scotch Whisky Industry Reaches £5.6bn Global Exports Despite “Challenging” 2023

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has released global export figures that show the value of Scotch exports topped £5.6bn in 2023. The equivalent of 1.35bn 70cl bottles of Scotch Whisky were exported last year, equating to 43 per second.

The figures, released today, show a decrease on 2022 exports for both volume and value, which the industry says was a “bumper” year for exports as global markets reopened and restocked following the pandemic, as well as the full reopening of global travel retail. The 2023 figures represent a more normalised depiction of the current state of global exports, with robust growth on pre-pandemic numbers. Exports of Scotch Whisky have risen by 14% in value compared to 2019, with a 3% increase in volume. However, whisky bosses have also warned that 2023 posed “significant” challenges for the sector both at home and in a number of key markets, warning that maintaining these numbers without more concrete government support in the coming year could hamper longer term growth.

As in 2022, Asia-Pacific continued to dominate as Scotch Whisky’s largest regional market by value in 2023, supported record value exports to China, a market up 165% on 2019, and value uplifts Singapore (19%) and Taiwan (8%). Premiumisation of Scotch Whisky remains a driver in these key markets: single malt Scotch Whisky continued to rise in popularity among a growing cohort of consumers, with double digit growth in China and Singapore on 2022.

Europe remained a key export region for Scotch Whisky for both volume and value, with France once again becoming the industry’s largest volume market – a position briefly held by India in 2022.
Exports to India fell in volume and value compared to 2022, the fall coming against a backdrop of ongoing UK-India FTA talks and the Scotch Whisky industry’s calls for a trade agreement which lowers the 150% tariff on Scotch imports into India, which would lead to significant export growth to the market.

The United States, which has long been Scotch Whisky’s biggest market by value, saw a sector-wide fall in exports of 7% compared to 2022, and 8.5% on 2019, to £978m. Industry figures say that these numbers are reflective of global economic conditions and rising living costs for consumers in the US, which remains a dynamic, competitive market for whisky, and the wider spirits category. Last year saw companies manage stock levels within market following restocking in 2022, and the industry expects the short-term export dip to realign over the course of 2024. However, the SWA has also warned that 2024 marks a halfway point for the five year removal of tariffs on single malt Scotch Whisky which were imposed in 2019, and has urged the UK government to press for longer-term tariff-free trade for Scotch in its talks with the US administration.

The export figures come a month on from the industry’s latest economic impact report, which showed that the contribution of the Scotch Whisky sector to the UK economy has reached £7.1bn annually, supporting 66,000 jobs across the UK.

Mark Kent, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association 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. 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.”

UK Government Minister for Exports Lord Offord 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 a trillion pounds 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.”