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Single malt exports to US down by up to 5m litres after tariffs, study shows

·2-min read
Up to five million fewer litres of single malt were exported to the US after tariffs were introduced, research has estimated ( Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive)
Up to five million fewer litres of single malt were exported to the US after tariffs were introduced, research has estimated ( Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive)

Tariffs on whisky imposed by the US as part of a trade row resulted in up to five million litres less of single malt being sent to the States over the course of a year, according to new research

A paper published by the Scottish Government suggested that single malt exports to the US decreased by between 9.5% and 19.6% over the period between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2020 – with this meaning a reduction of between one and two million litres of pure alcohol.

With single malt typically having an alcohol content of 40%, that means between 2.5 million and 5.1 million fewer litres were sold to the American market over this period, it calculated.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the research showed the “significant impact” that the “punitive tariffs” had had – arguing as a result that the Scottish Government should have a “meaningful role” in future UK trade discussions going forward.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the research showed the ‘significant impact’ of the tariffs. (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the research showed the ‘significant impact’ of the tariffs. (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

The US government had imposed a 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky imports from the UK in October 2019 – with this remaining in place until June 2021.

Ms Gougeon said: “The punitive tariffs imposed by the US on whisky exports from Scotland as a result of the long-running Boeing / Airbus trade dispute between the US and the EU saw up to five million fewer litres of single malt sent to America between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2020.”

She added: “The 25% tariff imposed on imports of single malt Scotch whisky due to the long-running trade dispute – which had nothing to do with Scottish producers – meant that Scotland was once again disproportionally hit by the UK Government’s posturing on international trade.”

In 2018, the year before the tariff was imposed, UK exports of Scotch whisky to the US were valued at just over £1 billion – with total exports that year amounting to £4.7 billion.

Single malt made up more than a quarter (28%) of Scotch whisky exports for that year, and was responsible for a third (33%) of exports to the US.

Ms Gougeon said: “America is the largest single destination for exports of Scotch whisky, and we repeatedly highlighted the negative impact of this trade dispute on one of our most iconic industries which provides valuable jobs among some of our most economically fragile communities.

“While we are pleased that the dispute and the sanctions has now been suspended, the impact on Scottish producers was significant and highlights why we should have a meaningful role in trade discussions to ensure that the interests of the Scottish economy are protected.”

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