SCOTCH whisky exports tumbled to their lowest level in a decade in 2020 as the ongoing effects of coronavirus and US import tariffs took their toll on overseas sales.
Figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association today reveal that exports plunged by fell by more than £1.1 billion, or 23 per cent, to £3.8bn last year. The number of 70cl bottles shipped dropped by 13% to the equivalent of 1.14 billion.
The value of exports to the US, traditionally the industry’s most lucrative market, fell from more than £1 billion in 2019 to £729m.
The figures come as the SWA continues to campaign for the UK Government to strike a deal with the US to scrap a 25 per cent import tariff on single malts.
The tariff has so far cost the industry more than £500 million in lost exports since it was imposed in October 2019, as part of a long-running trade dispute between the US and European Union over aircraft subsidies.
SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “These figures are a grim reminder of the challenges faced by distillers over the past year, as exports stalled in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and US tariffs. In effect, the industry lost 10 years of growth in 2020 and it’s going to take some time to build back to a position of strength.
“In these challenging times, what’s so disappointing is the damage being caused by US tariffs. The US has been, for decades, our strongest and most valuable market, but Scotch whisky is now losing considerable ground there.
“These tariffs were avoidable had the UK, EU and US governments and the European and American aerospace industries been less intransigent. That governments and companies have allowed their dispute to continue while the livelihoods of real people, and the future of one of Scotland’s oldest industries, are put at stake reflects badly on them.”