THE value of Scotch whisky exports dipped marginally last year, as Far Eastern markets including China proved tougher, industry figures reveal.
The figures, published today by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), show falls in the value of exports to Japan, Singapore and South Korea. And the volume of direct exports to China tumbled.
However, there were strong performances in other markets including the US, Brazil, Mexico, India, Australia and Poland.
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And the total value of Scotch whisky exports last year, at £4.26 billion, was down only about £14m or 0.3% from the record figure of £4.27bn achieved in 2012.
The value of Scotch whisky exports had risen by 1.1% in 2012. This slight increase followed a leap of 23% in 2011 and a rise of 10% in 2010.
In the first six months of 2013, Scotch whisky exports had been up 11% on the same period of 2012 at £1.99bn.
The slight dip in Scotch whisky exports over 2013 as a whole comes at a time when distillers are making huge investments in increasing capacity aimed at meeting future demand.
Asked if the SWA had any worries about the amount of capacity being developed, given the value of exports had fallen slightly last year, a spokeswoman for the industry body replied: "I wouldn't say so. Sales are flat. It is still the second-biggest year we have ever had in terms of value."
Highlighting the length of time it takes to produce whisky for sale, she said of the current investment by distillers: "It is very much looking to long-term growth."
By volume, rather than value, Scotch whisky exports increased last year by 3% to the equivalent of 1.3 billion, 70-centilitre bottles.
The SWA spokeswoman said the industry body had expected a drop in exports to China, citing reports from distillers and flagging the impact of economic slowdown and austerity measures put in place by the Communist nation's government.
Direct exports of Scotch whisky to China fell by 27% in volume terms, from 22.9 million bottles in 2012 to 16.7 million bottles last year.
The SWA spokeswoman highlighted the difficulty in ascertaining, from the figures, in which market-places Scotch whisky shipped to Asia ended up, with Singapore being a major distribution hub.
The value of exports to Singapore fell to £329.7m last year from £339.2m in 2012, a drop of 3%.
However, in terms of volume, exports to Singapore were up by 4% on the 2012 figure at 66.8 million bottles last year.
The value of Scotch whisky exports to South Korea dropped by 15% last year to £115.4m.
And the value of exports of Scotch to Taiwan fell by 12.5% to £144.6m.
However, the SWA spokeswoman noted that Taiwanese customs data showed a 6% rise in the value of Scotch whisky coming into the country last year.
The US remained by far the biggest overseas market for Scotch by value last year. The value of exports to the US rose by 8% to £818.7m.
By value, exports to France, the second-biggest market, were flat at £434m. However, by volume, exports to France jumped by 15.5% to 177.8 million bottles. This increased France's lead as the biggest market for Scotch by volume.
The value of Scotch exports to Mexico rose by 19.5% to £109.8m. Brazil was another strong market for Scotch, with exports increasing by 18.5% to £99.1m.
The SWA also highlighted the fact 2013 was the best-ever year for exports of Scotch whisky to India.
Exports to India rose by 11.5% last year to £68.7m.
Sales of Scotch whisky to Poland jumped by 38% to £60m. And Scotch exports to Australia rose by 7% to £84m.
The SWA noted that exports of single-malt Scotch whisky rose by 5% in 2013 to a record £820m. It highlighted the fact that this equated to nearly one-fifth of exports by value.