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Strong growth for UK alcohol exports

Exports of UK alcohol saw strong growth in the first half of 2017, with whisky and beer still topping the list of the nation’s biggest exports, according to the latest HMRC stats.

Exports of UK food and drink saw record growth in the first half of 2017, according to the latest report from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), based on figures from HMRC, up 8.5% on the same period last year to £10.2bn.

Although value sales of Scotch grew by £64.1 million, up 3.7% to £1,8195 million, volume sales fell by 1%, pointing to the growth of malt whisky to export markets Similarly, the value of beer grew 18.4% to £313.3 million, although again export volumes were down 2.2%.

However exports of wine (which includes both UK-produced wine as well as wine imported to the UK in bulk for bottling) saw both volume and value growth in the first half of the year, with value sales up £47.6 million, or 21.1% to £273.8 million, while volume grew 15.4%

The rise in gin was more modest, with a 4% increase in value sales of around £9.1 million taking the total value of gin exports to £235.1 million, while volumes grew by 1.9%.

Scotch Whisky accounts for over a fifth of the UK’s total food and drink exports, according to the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA), and earlier this year, it announced exports had returned to growth following several year market by flat growth or small declines, with single malts smashing the £1 billion export barrier for the first time.

Although the EU is the largest market for UK exports, the largest growth was seen in South Korea (+77%), China (+35%), and Belgium (+39%). One of the reasons for the rapid growth in East Asia was driven by sales of British beer in South Korea, the FDF said. Overall exports to the area grew to £156.3m.

FDF director general Ian Wright said the growth was very encouraging. “We want to work with Government to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas and the opportunities that leaving the EU is expected to create,” he said.

He argued that the EU remained “an essential market” for UK exports and there was significant opportunities to grow exports further, although the continuing weakness of sterling was “a concern”.

“However, we hope that with the determination of businesses and the assistance of Government, we can open more channels and provide a further boost to the UK’s competitiveness on the world market,” he said.

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