Exports of Scotch Whisky broke the £2 billion barrier for the tenth successive year in 2002, which was also its third best performance ever, according to figures released by The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) yesterday. 

Nearly £2.3 billion worth of whisky was shipped to 200 countries, however "global economic difficulties" did have a knock-on effect on the volume of exports, which fell by 6.9% to 943.4m bottles. In the UK, Scotch held firm overall at 9.5m cases assisted, the SWA said, by five years of duty freezes that have brought stability to the market.

Welcoming the news, SWA chairman Ian Good said that 90% of Scotch was consumed abroad and the latest figures represented a "resilient performance in the face of tough global conditions - that is good news for jobs (65,000 jobs across the UK depend on Scotch production) and the Scottish economy." 

Good continued: "The industry continues to perform strongly in established markets like the USA, France and South Korea, but it is also encouraging to see increased volumes shipped to new, emerging markets such as China, Poland and Turkey.  Although currently small Scotch markets, they offer enormous potential and our efforts to remove trade barriers there and elsewhere, such as India, continue. Today's figures bode well for the future health of the industry.

"Overall volume might be down slightly, but we remain confident that sales in markets like South America and Japan will prosper again as their economies recover."

The SWA said it was also welcoming the rise of malt whisky sales. The growing popularity of malts was demonstrated by an increase in both export volume, up 9.3% to 46.5m bottles and value, which grew 11% to £268m. In the UK malt whisky enjoyed good growth, rising 14% to 891,904 cases or 10.7m bottles.  The total UK market for Scotch was 114.6m bottles. 

Overall, while value remained level, Scotch whisky's position in the increasingly important Asian markets was encouraging, especially in South Korea and Taiwan, where sales have surged ahead, rising by 18% to £196m and 16.5% to £58m respectively.  The US reclaimed top spot as the industry's most valuable market, having been displaced by Spain in 1999, with exports rising 4% to over £300m.