Whisky exports increasing but bosses warn of Brexit 'challenges'
The amount of whisky sold overseas has increased for the first time since 2013, but industry bosses have warned the "uncertainties" caused by the Brexit vote will pose "challenges" for exporters.
The equivalent of 533 million bottles were shipped from Scotland in the first six months of 2016, new figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) revealed.
While that increase of 3.1% represents the first return to growth for whisky exports since 2013, the statistics also showed a small fall in the value of exports.
Sales of whisky around the globe amounted to £1.7 billion between January and June, down by 1% on the same period in 2015.
SWA chief executive David Frost said the figures suggested there had been a "strengthening in global consumer demand".
But he also highlighted the "continued international uncertainty" as he urged the Government to ensure a supportive tax and regulatory regime.
Mr Frost said: " The first half of 2016 was marked by an improving Scotch whisky export performance, suggesting a strengthening in global consumer demand compared to the last couple of years.
"The industry-wide emphasis on craftsmanship and provenance, backed by investment, means that Scotch exports are well-placed to grow in the future, appealing to consumers in both mature and emerging markets."
But he added: " It is clear, however, that the uncertainties of the Brexit vote will create challenges for exporters and we continue to encourage early clarity on the likely shape of the UK's future trading relationship with the EU and other countries.
"We are working closely with our members and government to ensure the industry's trade priorities are well understood, to promote open markets, and to identify opportunities to grow our exports in the future.
"Given the continued international uncertainty, we also look to government to make every effort to put in place a competitive domestic tax and regulatory environment, supporting a key home-grown industry."
While the volume of whisky exported to other countries in the European Union increased by 5% to the equivalent of 208 million bottles in January to June 2016, the value of these fell by 1% to £518 million.
Almost two fifths (39%) of Scotch whisky exports by volume went to the EU, while th e US is still the largest market for whisky exports by value, with sales to the America worth £357.4 million in the period January to June, a rise of 9% from the first half of 2015.
But the largest volume of sales went to France, with exports increasing from the equivalent of 86.5 million bottles in the first six months of 2015 to the equivalent of 90.9 million bottles in the same period this year. The equivalent of 41 million bottles were exported to India after a 41% increase in sales volumes.