Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 07:58 UK

Exported whisky value hits high

whisky generic
Whisky sales have seen falls in the USA, France and Spain

Whisky exports exceeded £3bn for the first time last year, despite a fall in volume of 5%.

The increase has been attributed to an 8% rise in the value of the product.

Industry body, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the figures showed Scotch Whisky to be "recession-resilient but not recession-immune".

Whisky sales, which account for about a fifth of Scotland's exports, have reduced in the first three months of 2009 because of falling global demand.

The drop in volume is seen as a sign that demand is being hit by the global recession, with sales down in major markets such as the USA, France and Spain.

Campbell Evans from the SWA said: "Whilst the United States slowed down, Canada grew last year.

When the whisky industry ceases to do well, so does a large part of the Scottish economy
Prof Brian Ashcroft

"We also saw growth in China and in some parts of Europe.

"I think that shows the diversity of the industry and its markets, so that we can hopefully offset the ones that fall with ones that grow."

Some of the biggest whisky distillers have been investing millions of pounds in increased production and laying down new stocks of malt whisky which will reach the market a decade from now.

Overall about £500m is being invested, with many producers marketing their brands in the high-value luxury market.

This strategy seems to have worked last year, as export value grew.

2009 will be a much tougher test for Scotch whisky.

Already amid falling sales, a couple of bottling plants have had temporary shutdowns, as the industry cuts its stock to adjust to falling global demand.

Professor Brian Ashcroft, from the Fraser of Allander Institute, emphasised the importance of whisky to the Scottish economy.

He said: "Since the decline in electronics, it's now, in current prices, more important than electronics, probably by a significant amount.

"Clearly when the whisky industry ceases to do well, so does a large part of the Scottish economy."

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