Trade in Scotch whisky – the UK’s biggest food and drink export - grew by 3.1 per cent during the first half of the year, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced today.

Andrea Leadsom, who was on her first visit to Scotland as Environment Secretary, visited the Glenmorangie bottling plant, seeing first-hand how demand for Scotch has grown with the equivalent of 533 million bottles shipped overseas in the first half of the year, up from 517m bottles in the first half of 2015.

This is the first time there has been a growth in volume since 2013, fuelled in part by booming demand in India where exports have risen by a record 41 per cent.

The country is being highlighted by the government as part of the recently launched UK Food and Drink International Action Plan for its export potential, with targets of £349m in food and drink export wins there over the next five years.

The new International Action Plan is a key strand of the Government’s Great British Food campaign, which was introduced to celebrate our world-class food industry and culture, drive growth and jobs in the sector, and establish Britain’s reputation as a great food nation.

Following the tour, Andrea Leadsom said: “The Scotch whisky industry is a powerful example on the significant global opportunities out there for our food and drink businesses.

“It accounts for nearly one-quarter of all our food and drink exports each year – a true powerhouse of our food and farming industry which generates over £100 billion a year and employs one in eight people.

“International trade is at the heart of our economy and our food and drink industry has a crucial role to play. That is why we have launched our ambitious plan to boost our exports by £3 billion over the next five years.”

The Environment Secretary also visited one of Scotland’s independent food companies, Paterson Arran, to host a roundtable with key Scottish food and drink businesses.

Scotland’s food and drink, which is popular around the world, is vital to the UK economy.

Its value rose to £5.5 billion last year and the sector now makes up 30 per cent of the UK’s total food and drink exports.

Whisky alone accounts for £3.9bn of exports, while Scottish fish and seafood was worth £553m last year.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, deputy chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association said: “Today’s meeting with the Environment Secretary was worthwhile and timely, including our discussion on the opportunities and challenges of Brexit for Scotch Whisky. Scotch is a British success story – the single biggest net contributor to the UK trade balance in goods – but there is more we can do to grow exports in collaboration with Defra and other sectors.

“We welcomed the chance to talk about the importance of continued moves towards a fairer and competitive excise duty regime in the UK. Looking overseas, we would like to see new free trade deals which provide a boost to Scotch in a range of markets, including India, where further growth is being held back by the 150% import tariff.”

Trade Minister Lord Price, who also visited Scotland today to meet business leaders at Scottish Development International, said: “Scotland has always had a global outlook, with over 60 per cent of its exports going outside the EU, and burgeoning relationships with growing markets like Thailand.

“There are big opportunities out there for Scottish businesses, not just in areas like whisky where Scotland is known throughout the world, but also in new sectors like renewable energy and life sciences. As we develop new trading relationships, I want to ensure all the UK nations have a voice at the heart of our discussions so we can build on our proud trading history to create jobs and prosperity.”

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