Exports of Scotch whisky fell in both volume and value in 2023 but remained above pre-pandemic levels, data shows.

By volume, exports decreased 19% year-on-year but increased by 3% in comparison to 2019 figures, according to a report from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

In value terms, export were down 9.5% on 2022 to £5.6bn in 2023, but up 14% on pre-pandemic levels (2019).

The SWA put the slide down to a “bumper” year in 2022, as global markets reopened and restocked following the pandemic and global travel retail opened up.

“The 2023 figures,” it said, “represent a more normalised depiction of the current state of global exports, with robust growth on pre-pandemic numbers.”

However, it added: “2023 posed significant challenges for the sector both at home and in a number of key markets.”

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The SWA called upon the government for industry support to maintain export numbers and support longer-term growth.

SWA CEO Mark Kent said: “The Scotch whisky industry is remarkably resilient, as we look at these numbers against the backdrop of rising costs for consumers and businesses.

“But the figures are a reminder once again that the Scotch whisky success story cannot be taken for granted.

“We need to see more tangible support from the government both at home and in our priority markets in order to continue to grow our export numbers, and the resultant investment, employment and economic benefits that come with that.”

He added a cut to spirits duty in the UK’s spring budget “would be a step in the right direction, giving the industry platform at home to push forward with international growth”.

“Government must also do away with any notion of restricting the marketing of Scotch whisky in Scotland, which would have a significant and lasting impact on the industry’s ability to generate future growth,” he said.

The SWA cited premiumisation as a driver in key markets such as the Asia-Pacific region.

As in 2022, Asia-Pacific was Scotch’s largest market by value in 2023, driven by China (up 165% on 2019) and Singapore (up 19%).

“Premiumisation of Scotch whisky remains a driver in these key markets: single malt Scotch Whisky continued to rise in popularity among a growing cohort of consumers, with double digit growth in China and Singapore on 2022,” the SWA said.

The US, which has long been Scotch Whisky’s biggest market by value, saw a sector-wide fall in exports, falling 7% to £978m compared to 2022. The SWA cited careful stock management for the dip and said this “should realign over the course of 2024”.

However, 2024 marks the half-way point for a five-year tarriff grace period for single-malt Scotch whisky exported to the US. The SWA urged the UK government to “press” for an extension of the duty freeze.

France was once again the industry’s largest volume market – a position briefly held by India in 2022.

Exports to India fell in volume and value compared to 2022, which the SWA put down to “the fall coming against a backdrop of ongoing UK-India free trade agreement talks”.

It is calling for a trade agreement between the UK and India which would see 150% tariffs on Scotch imports into India lowered.