Scotch whisky distillers have criticised the lack of progress being made towards spirits duty reform in India.

The UK's Scotch Whisky Association said today (1 March) that the Indian government had "failed for the second year in a row" to end a "discriminatory import regime for spirits" after refusing to change the duty levels in yesterday's Budget.

The SWA claims that access to the Indian market is "unfairly restricted" by a duty structure that runs "contrary to international trade rules".

The overall duty burden faced by Scotch ranges from 212% to 525% thanks to India's policy of levying duty at the federal and state level.

Peter Wilkinson, the SWA's international affairs director, said: "Domestic interests appear to have outweighed international commitments and, as a result, market access continues to be unfairly restricted by a protectionist tariff and tax system.  Indian consumers are being denied the opportunity to buy international spirits brands at an affordable price."

Wilkinson said the European Commission had launched a probe into India's duty regime for wine and spirits and warned that the SWA would support legal action against the Indian government if it could not obtain a negotiated settlement.

"We will have to weigh our options and may be obliged to press the EU to take these issues to WTO dispute settlement."