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Scotch whisky exports grow by nearly 20%

Exports of Scotch whisky grew by nearly 20% in 2021 thanks to surges in Latin America and Asia Pacific – but still fell short of their pre-pandemic high.

Export shipments were worth £4.51bn last year, up 19% on 2020, but 8% below the total of £4.91bn recorded in 2019, according to HMRC figures quoted by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

However, export volumes rose 21% to nearly 1.4 billion bottles in 2021, some 73 million bottles above the figures recorded in pre-pandemic 2019.

Scotch exports experienced an annus horribilis in 2020, falling to a 10-year low thanks to the combined effects of the pandemic and the imposition of punitive import tariffs by Scotch’s most lucrative market, the US.

The resurgence in 2021 was driven by an impressive recovery in Latin America, where shipments by value were up 70.7%, and strong growth in Asia Pacific (21.4%).

Exports to the US rose by 8.4%, with growth moderated by the continuation of the import tariffs for the first three months of the year before their suspension, while shipments to EU countries increased by 8.2%.

The SWA highlighted the performance of emerging economies, with shipments by value to China up 84.9%, and those to India rising by 42.9%. India’s volume surge of 44.3% saw it overtake the US to become Scotch’s second-largest export market by volume, behind France.

Meanwhile, shipment volumes to Brazil increased by 80.5% to 82 million bottles.

‘The global footprint of the industry in 2021 is a clear sign that the Scotch whisky industry is on the road to recovery,’ said Mark Kent, recently appointed SWA chief executive. ‘Value and volume are both up as consumers return to bars and restaurants, people return to travel and tourism, and we all return to a degree of normality after a period of enormous uncertainty for consumers and business.’

Kent called upon the UK and Scottish governments to help the Scotch whisky industry overcome ongoing challenges related to the pandemic, supply chain disruption and inflationary pressures by making the most of ‘global opportunities’, such as the current free trade agreement (FTA) talks with India.

His words were echoed by Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers, owner of Scotch brands including Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and The Glenlivet.

Referring to the complex tariff and regulatory system in India – which includes a 150% tariff on Scotch imports – Gourgues said: ‘The high costs and complex regulations of exporting Scotch to India has made it harder for Indian whisky fans to enjoy a wide range of Scotch whiskies.

‘Reduced tariffs would bring greater choice at the top end of the market and boost India’s own whisky production, which uses imported Scotch as a key ingredient.’

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