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With India emerging the largest global market for whisky, registering sales of more than 80 million cases per annum, Scotch whisky producers are fighting hard to make a dent in the Indian market, primarily by seeking an equality of treatment with local products.

Scotch whisky exports from the UK to India are growing leading to Scotch producers getting interested in expanding their operations in the country, said sources.

Scotch exports from the UK to India assume significance as they have seen a 47% increase in the last two years, according to industry figures.

Sources said the latest country on the hit list of Scotch Whisky Association is India, where Scotch is subjected to high additional duties besides import duties of 150%, making imported liquor brands out of reach of consumers.

Besides India, the SWA has also been fighting it out in Chile. Local spirit in Chile was favoured by the authorities and it benefited from a far lower duty rate than imported Scotch, until the SWA successfully lobbied against the discrimination

The SWA has won similar victories in South Korea, where local spirit, soju, was favoured, and in Taiwan, where imported spirits in general were subjected to high duty levels.

According to industry sources, India is so important to UK Scotch exports that the British government has given continued support to the association's efforts for a fairer trading environment.

A report from Canadean published last year suggested that India was now the largest global market for whisky, in all its variants, with consumption reaching more than 80 million cases in 2004. But the market is fuelled almost entirely by Indian whisky, which accounts for over 99% of total consumption.

India also appears to be displaying a growing preference for malt based whisky, with Indian malt whisky predicted to grow by around 11% in 2003 and a further 25% by 2005. "As trade barriers are gradually removed, there will be significant commercial opportunities,'' believe sources. Figures for the UK show a decline, with Scotch sales down 1% in volume in 2003 to 113.7 million bottles. However, bottled malts were up 3%, to nearly 11 million bottles. 

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