Scotch whisky exports rise 4% high despite U.S. tariffs

LONDON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The value of Scotch whisky exports rose to a record high last year, backed by booming sales in countries such as Taiwan and India, which helped offset concerns over tariffs and the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Overseas sales of Scotch whisky rose more than 4% to 4.9 billion pounds ($6.36 billion) in 2019.

The United States was the most valuable destination for Scotch, rising 2.8% to 1.1 billion pounds, even as tariffs on single malts and some liqueurs were introduced in October.

The United States announced last year it was imposing 25% duties on a range of European products, including Scotch whisky as punishment for illegal EU aircraft subsidies.

The Scotch Whisky Association said that move had resulted in exports to the United States dropping by a quarter in the final three months of 2019, compared with the previous year.

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"The tariffs are hitting producers hard, particularly small distillers," Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive Karen Betts said in a statement.

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

Scotch whisky exports to Taiwan rose 22% percent and to India 19.7% last year. ($1 = 0.7710 pounds) (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Kate Holton)

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