Last year, some 534,300 nine-litre cases of Irish whiskey were exported from the Island of Ireland to Russia whereas some 531,000 cases were exported to the UK. All this is highlighted in a new report, Irish Whiskey Global, from the Irish Whiskey Association which launched its inaugural international trade report as part of a recent online event.
Irish whiskey sales held up or even increased across some of our most important markets including Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada.
In 2020, 11.4 million cases of Irish whiskey were sold around the world, a slight decrease on 2019 but still exceeding expectations for what was a challenging year. The collapse of Irish whiskey sales in global travel retail as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic was responsible for the decline.
Accounting for 43% of all Irish whiskey sales the US topped the Irish whiskey export market with 4.9 million case sales in 2020. Ireland itself came second with 591,000 case sales and following Russia and the UK Germany came fifth with 436,000 cases sold.
Across all major markets 2020 saw a continuation in the trend towards premium-and-above Irish whiskey.
Some 96% of all Irish whiskey sales now take place in markets outside of Ireland and exports are worth €890 million. Together North America and Europe account for around 84% of all Irish Whiskey sales.
More international trade deals are key to the continued growth of the Irish Whiskey industry and Irish Whiskey Global highlights priorities for future trade deals.
- a permanent end to all transatlantic trade disputes, building on recent positive developments
- reform of both the rules-of-origin for whiskey and territoriality rules in all EU and UK trade agreements to protect and facilitate the Irish whiskey industry’s cross-border supply chain on the island of Ireland
- inclusion of tariff reductions in both EU and UK trade negotiations with India
- elimination of outstanding discriminatory levies and mark-ups in Canada
- ratification of the CETA agreement by Dáil Éireann and conclusion and ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement
- expansion of tariff-free trade to more African markets and progression of trade agreement negotiations with Thailand
- facilitation of spirits e-commerce in future trade agreements.
Trade agreement rules on ‘territoriality’ mean that Irish whiskey produced in this State but bottled in Northern Ireland could also lose out on originating status in certain countries.
According to the report, “The Irish Whiskey Association has asked the European Commission to consider new rules-of-origin which protect cross-border supply chains on the island of Ireland.
“We have proposed this should apply to all future EU trade deals beginning with the current Australia negotiations, as well in reviews of existing FTA as they arise.
“Regrettably, the responses to date have been disappointing,” it adds.
Thus, the reform of the rules-of-origin for whiskey and territoriality rules in all EU & UK trade agreements to protect and facilitate the Irish whiskey industry’s cross-border supply chains on the Island of Ireland is one of the Irish Whiskey Association’s policy objectives.
In recognition of Irish whiskey’s prominence as an all-island industry, the Report was jointly launched by Ireland’s Minister for State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy TD and the UK’s Minister for Exports Graham Stuart MP.
Irish whiskey was the fastest-growing spirits category in the world between 2010 and 2020 with a growth rate of 140%.
“As Minister for Trade Promotion I continue to actively engage with business across sectors on fostering and developing our global trading relationships,” said Robert Troy TD at the launch of the report, “The Government continues to work towards establishing new trade relationships with our global partners which hopefully will provide more market opportunities for our world-renowned Whiskey producers.”
Irish Whiskey Global
William Lavelle, Head of Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey, stated, “Looking to the future, the Irish whiskey industry can confidently target more growth in more markets, across more sales channels and among more consumer segments.
“But now, more than ever, international trade policy will be critical to supporting growth and diversification.”
The report also sets-out how Irish whiskey exports have benefited from recent positive developments on the international trade front including:
- the lifting of the 25% US tariff on Northern Irish Single Malts
- further reductions in recent months to Canadian provincial levies on Irish whiskey as a result of the CETA agreement, with an overall 66% growth in sales to Canada from 2017 to 2020 supported by CETA
- new protections for the Irish whiskery geographical indication as a result of EU bilateral agreements with China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. As of this June 89% of global Irish Whiskey sales are subject to some form of legal protection.
- the elimination or phasing-out of tariffs across the Southern African Development Community and in other markers including Colombia, South Korea and Vietnam as a result of EU trade deals – and in Australia (for NI whiskey) as a result of the new UK trade agreement.