India outdrinks France as top buyer of Scotch whisky by volume

Scotch still has only a 2% share in India, the world's largest whisky market

India has replaced France as the world’s biggest buyer of Scotch whisky by volume, latest figures show.

Whisky makers exported 219 million bottles to India, up 60% on 2021, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said.

The US is still the largest buyer by value – it imported Scotch whisky worth $1.27bn in 2022. India was fifth on the list.

Scotch has long been a status symbol in India, but still has only a 2% share in the world’s largest whisky market.

Blended whisky, which is cheaper, has long been the preferred choice for millions of Indian consumers. But demand for more expensive single malts has been growing too, driven by cultural shifts and a rise in Indians’ spending power.

While India’s share in global Scotch sales has surged – export volumes to the country rose more than 200% over the past decade – exporters see a lot of room to grow.

India charges 150% import tariff on each bottle of Scotch whisky – mainly due to lobbying by domestic distillers – driving up prices and squeezing profit margins for producers.

The SWA hopes that a long-awaited trade deal between India and the UK could help ease this – the two countries missed a deadline last October to conclude the agreement, but have conducted several rounds of talks so far.

Scotch whisky is one of the products whose sales could surge if the deal goes through and tariffs are lowered – the SWA said in a statement that according to in-house analysis, this could lead to “an additional £1bn of growth over the next five years”.

France was second on the SWA’s list both in terms of value and volume.

Apart from India, Scotch makers saw double-digit growth in Taiwan, Singapore and China “as the post-Covid recovery continued”, the association said.

This also ensured that the wider Asia-Pacific region overtook the European Union as the largest regional market for the product in 2022 – it imported £1.8bn worth of Scottish whisky, which accounted for 29% of total global exports, which rose 37% to $6.9bn.

“In 2022, the industry benefited from the full re-opening of hospitality businesses in key global markets, as well as the return of global travel retail which opens such an important window for Scotch Whisky to business and leisure travellers,” said Mark Kent, CEO of the SWA.


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