February 12, 2020 / 3:16 PM / 7 days ago

Scotch whisky exports at record high despite U.S. tariffs

LONDON (Reuters) - The value of Scotch whisky exports rose to a record high last year, backed by booming sales in countries such as Taiwan and India which helped offset concerns over tariffs and the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Glasses of scotch whisky sit on a table during a tour of the Glenfiddich scotch whisky distillery in Dufftown, Scotland January 13, 2013. REUTERS/David Moir/Files

Overseas sales of Scotch whisky rose more than 4% to 4.9 billion pounds ($6.3 billion) in 2019.

The United States was the most valuable destination for Scotch, rising 2.8% to 1.1 billion pounds, even as tariffs on single malts and some liqueurs were introduced in October.

The United States announced last year it was imposing 25% duties on a range of European products, including Scotch whisky as punishment for illegal EU aircraft subsidies.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said that move had resulted in exports to the United States dropping by a quarter in the final three months of 2019, compared with the previous year.

“The tariffs are hitting producers hard, particularly small distillers,” SWA Chief Executive Karen Betts said in a statement.

“Some are now asking themselves how they can continue exporting to the U.S, whether they can build up alternative markets which is not something that can be done quickly, and if not how their businesses will cope.”

A UK government spokesman said the tariffs do not benefit Britain, the European Union or the United States.

“We have raised the issue at the highest levels of the US administration, including with the president,” the spokesman said.

Scotch whisky exports to Taiwan rose 22% and to India 19.7% last year.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison

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