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Exports of Scotch whisky rose to more than GBP6bn (US$7.5bn) last year as the category benefited from a post-pandemic “bounce-back” and from UK free-trade agreements.

Data released today (10 February) by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) showed a 21% rise in the exports of 70cl bottles to 1.67bn in 2022. In value terms, Scotch whisky exports were valued at GBP6.2bn, a jump of 37%.

Europe is no longer Scotch whisky’s largest market, after being surpassed by double-digit growth in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular in Taiwan, Singapore, India and China.

India is now the largest market for Scotch whisky by volume, with some 219m bottles being shipped last year. The country took the title from France, which imported 205m bottles. Yet, the SWA notes that Scotch whisky only comprises 2% of India’s whisky market.

“In 2022, the industry benefited from the full re-opening of hospitality businesses in key global markets, as well as the return of global travel retail which opens such an important window for Scotch Whisky to business and leisure travellers,” Mark Kent, the CEO of SWA, said.

“Exports were also boosted by the continued premiumisation trend, with consumers attracted to high-quality spirits like Scotch whisky, now often enjoyed in longer serves as well as the more traditional dram.”

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Exports to North America rose by 33% in value terms year-on-year to just over GBP1bn. The UK renegotiated trade agreements with both Mexico and Canada, which the SWA described as “market access wins”.

A potential UK trade deal with India could generate GBP1bn in additional growth over the next five years, according to the SWA. Negotiations on a free-trade agreement between the UK and India started in January 2022 and entered their sixth round of talks last December.

Kent added: “By reducing tariffs through the UK-India free trade agreement, continuing the duty freeze in the March budget, and ensuring the industry’s continued ability to advertise our world-class product in our home market, the Scottish and UK governments can count on the Scotch whisky industry to reinvest its success across the UK.”

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