Scotch Whisky exports have broken the GBP1bn (US$1.77bn) barrier in H1 for the first time since 1997. According to figures released today (26 October) by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Scotch exports for the first six months of this year were up by 3% year-on-year to GBP1.011bn.

Global volumes also grew by 2% to 429m bottles, an increase of 9m bottles. Exports to China soared by 124% in value to GBP22m, while exports to South Korea (+26% to GBP72m), Thailand (+47% to GBP21m) and Taiwan (+25% to GBP44m) all rose. The US (+7% to GBP152m) consolidated its position as Scotch Whisky's most valuable export market.

Elsewhere, emerging markets such as India (+19% to GBP7m) and Russia (+80% to GBP12m) continued to grow, while a recovery in exports to Venezuela (+80% to GBP25m) helped boost the value of exports to South America (+19% to GBP106m) as a whole.

Tough economic conditions, however, held back exports to the EU (-13% to GBP360m), with Scotch exports to France (-4% to GBP114m) and Spain (-16% to GBP110m) down in value. In contrast, exports to the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004 have increased (+15% to GBP10m), benefiting from local economic growth and the removal of import tariffs. While the domestic market slipped 6% in volume at the half-year mark, malt whisky clearances again expanded, up just over 1% in the UK.

In a statement, Gavin Hewitt, the SWA chief executive, said: "Distillers continue to invest with confidence in their Scotch Whisky brands. A rise in exports in the first half of 2005 demonstrates their continuing success and the worldwide popularity of Scotch Whisky.
"Conditions in Europe have been challenging but it remains a vitally important market representing nearly 40% of Scotch Whisky shipments. It is encouraging that last year's enlargement of the Single Market is beginning to bring benefits, with Scotch Whisky now able to compete on a level playing field with local spirits in the new EU Member States for the first time."