Donald MacInnes: Here's to a £4.3bn marvel of the British export trade

In The Red

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The Independent Online

Some public relations companies assume that because I write a column in the Money section of a quality national newspaper like what this is, I must be a financial analyst of some note. All I would say is this: don't they read this rubbish? If they bothered to peruse anything south of my oddly Scorcese-esque picture, they would discover I don't know my RBS from my elbow.

However, even I appreciate the value of a pithy press release (especially when I'm too tired from all the hard living I did over the Easter break to come up with a half-decent idea for this week's column). So, thanks to Rosemary Gallagher, who represents a particularly British product and wrote to tell me what a very good year it had had. I shan't reveal the product just yet. See if you can guess.

This stuff is worth a terrifying £135 per second to the UK balance of trade. Exports hit a record £4.3bn in 2012, an increase of 87 per cent in the last 10 years and rising for the eighth consecutive year. It leads the way for British food and drink in overseas markets, forming about a quarter of total UK exports and 80 per cent of exports from one particular part of the United Kingdon.

The US remains the top market for the product, with exports breaking through the £700m barrier for the first time to reach £758m. And demand from America should increase as consumer confidence grows. The growth of exports to Russia, =estimated to be worth £200m, boosted shipments to the Baltic states. Exports to Latvia were up 48 per cent to £79m, and to Estonia up 28 per cent to £69m. Asia continues to grow in importance, with exports to Singapore up to £339m. Taiwan's intake increased 7 per cent to £165m, and shipments to China grew 8 per cent to £72m.

Amazingly, given that it produces a similar, globally popular product of its own, in Mexico our stuff is one of the UK's fastest-growing exports, increasing by 14 per cent to £92m in 2012.

So what is it? Well, in the hairier parts of my country, they call it uisge beatha, which means "water of life". It's whisky, friends, whisky. Personally, a spot of peaty, smoky Laphroaig aside, I find any type of Scotch about as palatable as rat pie, but I'm obviously in the minority. So what else is new?

And it does remind me of a gag by Bob Monkhouse: "I knew a guy whose life was ruined by hard drink … he sat on an icicle." On that note, Slàinte!

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