For the first time in recent years, Scotch whisky exports declined 7% to 3.95 billion pounds in 2014 from 4.26 billion pounds in 2013, but India is among few markets where exports were up during 2014, latest industry figures show.
The figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) on Wednesday reveal that the volume of exports also went down slightly by 3% to 1.19 billion 70cl bottles during 2014.
Exports to India were up 29% to 89 million pounds, “despite the 150% import tariff” in the country, SWA said. USA, the biggest market for Scotch, fell 9% by value to 748 million pounds.
The SWA called on the European Union (EU) and the future UK government, no matter the political complexion after the 7 May elections, to continue to press the case for more open markets, and to pursue Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to promote exports.
The SWA pointed to existing FTAs, such as the EU agreement with South Korea, which have boosted growth and to the huge potential of agreements with countries including India, the USA and Vietnam.
It said that Scotch Whisky had enjoyed strong global growth over the last decade, with total value of exports up 74% since 2004 and Single Malt up 159%. But the SWA reported challenges in several markets last year.
David Frost, SWA chief executive, said: "Economic and political factors in some important markets held back Scotch Whisky exports in 2014 after a decade of strong growth. It shows that the industry's success cannot be taken for granted and that we must continue to argue for more open markets and ambitious trade deals that tackle barriers to market access.
He added: "The long-term fundamentals remain strong, with consumers in emerging markets wanting to buy Scotch Whisky as a high-quality and authentic product with a strong reputation and clear provenance. This drives the strong investment in Scotch Whisky production in Scotland and the significant interest in entering the sector."