A slump in Scotch whisky sales in South Korea slowed in the first quarter of this year, with declines expected to further ease over the rest of 2014, according to a report.

Scotch volumes fell 4% to 3.9m litres in the three months to March, the Yonhap news agency reported today (6 May), citing industry figures. In 2013, volumes were down 13% to 16.7m litres over the 12-month period.

Last year's drop, the Scotch category's fifth annual decrease in a row, was blamed on a return to cheaper beer and soju as South Korea's economy stagnated. In an interview with just-drinks last year, Eric Benoist, marketing director for Pernod's Scotch unit blamed a drop in South Korea sales on consumer trends towards white spirits

However, today's report said market watchers expected the downturn “to ease in 2014”.

South Korea's Lotte Chilsung Beverage, the country's third biggest Scotch maker with its Scotch Blue brand, saw Q1 whisky volumes fall by 24.5% to 535,000 litres.

Diageo and Pernod, which hold first and second spots respectively, both posted a 3% drop in volumes. In 2013, Diageo's 12-month volumes dropped by 10% and Pernod's by 23%