Whisky exports at record £4.9bn – but tariff hits Q4

Scotch Whisky exports grew 4.4% to a record £4.91 billion in 2019, with 1.3 billion bottles exported to 180 markets, according to the latest figures compiled from HMRC export data.

However, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) warned the recent 25% tariff on the import of Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Scotch Whisky liqueurs into the United States contributed to a 25% fall in exports to the US in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Overall, export growth in 2019 was driven in particular in Asia and Africa, with value increases of 9.8% and 11.3% respectively.

“However, a 25% tariff on the import of Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Scotch Whisky liqueurs into the United States means the outlook for the industry remains uncertain, particularly given that this tariff could rise,” warned the SWA.

“The SWA warned in August that exports in 2019 had been affected by changing trade conditions in key export markets, and did not reflect ‘steady-state’ trade for the Scotch Whisky sector.

“This continues to be the case, with significant pre-shipping ahead of Brexit ‘no-deal’ deadlines in March and October 2019, and ahead of the imposition of a tariff on exports to the US on 18th October.”

While the US remained the Scotch Whisky industry’s most valuable market, increasing in value by 2.8% to £1.07 billion, export volume fell 7% to 127 million 70cl bottles.

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts said in a statement: “These figures underscore the global reach of Scotch Whisky.

“They show that Scotch Whisky remains at the heart of a dynamic, competitive, international spirits market and continues to attract consumers tapping into the global trend for premium spirits.

“The growth of developing markets in Africa and Asia shows that Scotch Whisky continues to bring new consumers to our globally renowned brands.

“However, the imposition of a 25% tariff on exports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Scotch Whisky Liqueurs to the United States is very concerning, and the 25% fall in exports to the US in the fourth quarter of 2019, immediately following the implementation of tariffs, is stark.

“The tariffs are hitting producers hard, particularly small distillers. 

“Some are now asking themselves how they can continue exporting to the US, whether they can build up alternative markets, which is not something that can be done quickly, and if not how their businesses will cope.

“We are continuing to press the UK government to put in place a package of support for distillers to help mitigate the impact of tariffs, including a cut in excise duty in next month’s budget which would allow distillers to re-invest in the UK market while sales are under pressure in the US.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.