Exports of Scotch whisky have increased for the first time since 2013, but producers have warned Britain's decision to leave the European Union will pose serious challenges for exporters. According to data released on Friday (16 September) by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the equivalent of 566 million bottles were shipped from Scotland in the first six months of 2016, a 3.1% year-on-year increase.

The European market received the equivalent of 208 million bottles, accounting for 39% of the total volume exported and up 5% year-on-year.

However, the value of exports slid 1% from the previous year to £518m. The US remained the largest market for whisky exports by value, with sales worth £357.4m in the period, a rise of 9% from the first half of 2015.

France was still the biggest importer by volume, with exports to the country increasing to the equivalent of 90.9 million bottles from the equivalent of 86.5 million bottles in the first six months of 2015.

India, meanwhile, recorded a 41% year-on-year surge in sales volumes to the equivalent of 41 million bottles.

"The first half of 2016 was marked by an improving Scotch whisky export performance, suggesting a strengthening in global consumer demand compared to the last couple of years," SWA chief executive David Frost explained.

"The industry-wide emphasis on craftsmanship and provenance, backed by investment, means that Scotch exports are well-placed to grow in the future, appealing to consumers in both mature and emerging markets."

The figures represented the first time exports have grown in three years but also revealed a slight decline in the value of exports. Sales of whisky worldwide totalled a combined £1.7bn in the first half of the year, down 1% from the corresponding period in 2015.

However, Frost warned the "continued international uncertainty" surrounding Britain's vote to leave the European Union could undermine exporters and urged the government to adopt a favourable tax and regulatory regime.

"It is clear, however, that the uncertainties of the Brexit vote will create challenges for exporters and we continue to encourage early clarity on the likely shape of the UK's future trading relationship with the EU and other countries," he said.

"Given the continued international uncertainty, we also look to government to make every effort to put in place a competitive domestic tax and regulatory environment, supporting a key home-grown industry."