The US remains the largest export market for European spirits

The US remains the largest export market for European spirits

The value of spirits exports from the European Union fell by 4% last year, according to the latest figures from trade body SpiritsEurope.

Exports were down to EUR9.6bn (US$10.93bn) for the 12 months of 2014. SpiritsEurope director general Paul Skehan noted, however, that spirits exports from the region had doubled over the last decade.

The US remains the largest export market, while South-East Asia is the fastest-growing region, according to the report.

"With declining consumption in the European Union, the opportunities for spirits growth are mainly outside the EU," added Skehan. "There are many untapped markets that offer huge potential such as China - and India where consumption of imported products is less than 1% compared to 99% for domestic Indian products."

Whisk(e)y remains by far the largest sprits export category, with a value of EUR4.3bn. Cognac comes in second at EUR2.35bn, while rum is the smallest major category at EUR135m.

Skehan added: "The elimination of high import tariffs and other barriers such as discriminatory tax policies, insufficient IP protection or complex custom procedures need to be addressed through the conclusion of further Trade Agreements with our main trading partners, a reinforced market access strategy, and credible enforcement mechanisms. Lifting barriers through an ambitious EU strategy will not only benefit larger enterprises but also craft and micro distillers."

Earlier this year, the Scotch Whisky Association reported a drop in exports to the US.