Scotch whisky exports hit record despite UK slump

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EXPORTS of Scotch whisky hit record levels in the first half of this year, buoyed by increased shipments to the US, Japan and European Community countries. In volume, export sales improved by 6 per cent to 325 million bottles, and in value by 12 per cent to pounds 870.7m.

The home market, however, remained locked in recession with sales falling by 9 per cent. Around 85 per cent of all Scotch whisky is sold overseas.

While it is too early to predict export levels for 1992, the second half is traditionally better than the first. Exports reached a record pounds 1.83bn last year, up 7 per cent on the pounds 1.71bn achieved in 1990.

One notable trend emerging from the latest figures, however, is the industry's success in enhancing profit margins by reducing bulk shipments to key markets, particularly in Europe. Sales of bottled-in-Scotland products rose 11 per cent to pounds 763m.

James Bruxner, chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association, said the export figures made 'very pleasant' reading. 'At a time when recession is affecting many countries around the world it is very encouraging to see that the Scotch whisky industry is continuing to significantly increase sales.'

Industry analysts thought the export figures looked good, but said they were slightly flattered by a recovery in last year's Gulf war- affected duty-free sales.

Sales to the European Community, excluding the UK, grew strongly, rising by 10 per cent to pounds 344.2m - equal to 40 per cent of total exports. Sales by volume to Spain in June alone soared by 170 per cent, helped by Expo '92 and more recently by the Olympics.

'The EC continues to offer significant opportunities,' Mr Bruxner said. He also said that, while the recent provisional agreement in the EC on minimum excise rates would not force price increases in any member state, there was 'still much to work for' in a system that did not offer true tax harmonisation between different alcoholic drinks.