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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Dram good news for whisky bosses
Whisky bottling plant
The whisky industry is celebrating bumper figures
Whisky chiefs are toasting one of their best years, based on the latest industry figures.

The equivalent of 981 million bottles of Scotch was shipped to 200 countries last year. The value of sales was just short of a record at 2.4bn.

The United States remained the biggest market for whisky produced in Scotland.

There was also a big rise in exports to the countries in Eastern Europe which are about to join the European Union as trade barriers are removed.

Glasses were being raised, too, after sales increased in what distillers describe as key emerging markets - such as India and China.

The statistics were welcomed by Scotch Whisky Association chairman Ian Good.

Any damage to the industry's competitiveness will have a knock-on effect across the wider economy
Ian Good
Scotch Whisky Association
"Value and volume growth for Scotch, both malts and blends, is a major achievement in the face of difficult economic conditions around the world.

"New markets are emerging where consumers are discovering Scotch for the first time. Today's figures highlight Scotch's important contribution to the balance of payments."

The warming figures come, though, as the whisky business faces what it sees as the hangover caused by the chancellor's plans to force producers to attach a tax stamp to every bottle of Scotch.

Capital for promotion

The aim is to prove that duty has been paid. Mr Good took the opportunity of publishing the sales figures to condemn Gordon Brown's crackdown.

He warned: "Any damage to the industry's competitiveness will have a knock-on effect across the wider economy.

"That is one of the reasons we continue to oppose the introduction of tax stamps in the UK - a measure that will tie up companies' capital that would be better spent promoting Scotch around the world."

Nationalists described the policy as a "hammer blow" to the whisky business.

First Minister Jack McConnell, though, rejected calls by the Scottish National Party to campaign against the anti-fraud move.

Distillers' anger over tax plan
17 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Measures aim to beat whisky fraud
03 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Brown vows whisky duty action
11 Dec 03  |  Scotland

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