Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 00:10 UK

Scotch whisky exports buck downturn

By Hugh Pym
Economics Editor, BBC News

The Scotch whisky industry is optimistic about its prospects even with the downturn in the world's leading economies. Exports in the first half of this year were up 14%.

Whisky packed in the container
The consignment of whisky is bound for China

Today a consignment of scotch bound for China leaves the port of Greenock near Glasgow in the BBC Box.

The BBC Box is a year-long project to illustrate the growth in world trade.

It was launched on Monday at Southampton - equipped with GPS satellite transmitter.

Its progress can be tracked through the BBC website during its voyages around the world over the next year.

The aim of the project is to lift a veil on the complex patterns of global trade.

To China

First stop is a Scotch whisky bottling plant in Paisley. Here a consignment of Chivas Regal has been bottled for the Chinese market.

Export sales are booming - and the company is working flat out to meet demand from overseas customers. Some 150 containers come and go every working day.

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Scotch whisky is bottled for customers in China

Even with the slowdown in many leading economies, demand for Scotch is holding up.

There is robust growth in most of the major markets, including North America.

Total Scotch sales in China have risen dramatically, from just 1m in 2000 to 40m last year.

It is thought another 30m or so is sold on from consignments arriving in Singapore.

New investment

Distilling capacity is being increased at its fastest rate since the early 1970s.

The Box
The Box will leave from the port of Greenock

A new malt distillery was opened in Girvan by William Grant and Sons last year.

Diageo is planning a major new plant on Speyside.

Mothballed plants are also coming back into operation.

More than 500m of new investment has been announced over the last 18 months, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

High spirits

The industry says there are just more than 9,000 people directly employed and another 31,000 in related trades such as bottle manufacture.

But it admits that when sales increase employment levels remain static.

The Box, with its cargo of whisky, is bound for the port of Greenock.

There it will be loaded onto a container ship - ultimate destination Shanghai.

The industry's upbeat mood is good news for the British economy, which needs whatever export growth it can get as demand and activity falters in other sectors.

The weaker pound can only lift spirits even higher.




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