Exports of Scotch whisky and salmon climb

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Farmed Scottish salmon being trimmedImage source, Getty Images

Scottish exports of whisky and salmon both grew strongly last year, according to new figures.

HMRC statistics showed sales of Scotch overseas grew by 4.4% to £4.91bn, with growth seen in more than 100 of its global markets.

Salmon exports reached a record £618m, a 22% increase on the previous year, while the tonnage exported rose by 26% to more than 94,000 tonnes.

However, bodies representing the sectors warned of challenges ahead.

Both are facing a renewed threat from a trade dispute between America and Europe, while salmon producers have also raised concerns about the effect of Brexit on business.

For Scotch, export growth was driven in particular in Asia and Africa, with value increases of 9.8% and 11.3% respectively.

But the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the imposition in October of a 25% tariff on the import of single malts and liqueurs into the US meant the outlook for the industry "remains uncertain, particularly given that this tariff could rise".

The US remained the industry's most valuable market last year, increasing in value by 2.7% to just over £1bn.

However, export volume fell by 7% to 127 million 70cl bottles, with sales falling by 25% in the final quarter of the year.

Image source, Getty Images

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: "The tariffs are hitting producers hard, particularly small distillers.

"Some are now asking themselves how they can continue exporting to the US, whether they can build up alternative markets, which is not something that can be done quickly, and if not how their businesses will cope."

For Scottish salmon, France emerged as the largest market in 2019, with sales worth £221m, for the third year running.

It was followed by USA (£179m), and China (£59m).

The EU accounted for 56% of the volume of global Scottish salmon exports and 52% of the value.

In total, 17 of the top 20 overseas markets showed positive growth in 2019.

While there was a decline in exports to China of 11% in volume, this was offset by growth elsewhere in Asia, notably Taiwan and Japan.

'Extraordinary success'

Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird said: "These figures demonstrate just what an extraordinary success Scottish salmon is.

"Such record-breaking performance is hugely encouraging and reflects the excellent reputation which Scottish salmon has in international markets."

Her comments came only a day after she warned that salmon farmers faced "huge unnecessary burdens" and a loss of market share under UK government plans for Brexit.

She said firms were being told to prepare for trade barriers with the EU.

The industry is also warning that added red tape could see £9m on costs and delays to the departure of fresh fish.

The UK government said it would inform producers later this year on the measures they needed to take.