European Trade War Hits American Spirits Exports - Global Trade Magazine
  September 10th, 2021 | Written by

European Trade War Hits American Spirits Exports

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  • Spirits and liqueurs imports into the U.S. expanded significantly to 938K tonnes in 2020, growing by 14%.
  • In March 2021, the U.S. and the EU agreed to a 4-month reciprocal suspension of trade tariffs on alcohol and spirits.
  • Establishing duties led to a 53% drop in the supply of American whiskey in the UK and a 38% drop in the EU.

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘U.S. – Spirits, Liqueurs And Other Spirituous Beverages – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The establishment of duties on alcohol trade between the U.S. and the EU has led to a sharp drop in the export of American spirits. A further increase in the EU import duty on US whiskey may facilitate this decline. Alcohol imports from the EU to the American market also dropped, but this was compensated by increasing purchases from Mexico. The temporary suspension of duties on alcohol should help boost the U.S.-EU trade. The key trends in the American spirits and liquor market include the growing popularity of ready-to-drink beverages and the increasing demand for luxury spirits and alcohol, as well as beer and flavored malt beverages.

Key Trends and Insights

Exports in spirits from the U.S. dropped significantly from $2.1B in 2018 to $1.9B in 2020 due to a decrease in demand for American alcohol to Europe after the EU introduced customs duties on U.S. spirits. From 1997 to June 2018, there were no customs duties on alcohol between the U.S. and the EU. In June 2018, the EU set a 25% import duty on American whiskey, and in 2020 it was expanded to include rum, brandy, vodka and vermouth from America.

Establishing duties led to a 53% drop in the supply of American whiskey in the UK and a 38% drop in the EU, compared to 2018 levels. Exports of American whiskey in 2020 were $845M, down 28.9% from 2018 levels. European countries account for 52% of total US whiskey exports.

A further decline in whiskey exports from the U.S. is forecasted for the coming years as a result of higher European trade tariffs. In June 2021, the EU raised the import duty on American whiskey from 25% to 50%. It’s expected that the total volume of shipments of American alcohol abroad will continue to fall, as in monetary terms, the share of shipments of whiskey accounts for about 44% of total exports of spirits from the U.S.

The import of spirits from the EU to the U.S. dropped significantly after the U.S. established retaliatory trade duties. In 2019, the U.S. imposed a 25% import duty on single malt Scotch whiskey from the EU, single malt Irish whiskey from Northern Ireland, as well as liqueurs from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. As a result, imports of Scotch whiskey into the U.S. fell by 37% y-o-y in 2020, while shipments of liqueurs and cordials fell by 40% y-o-y. In 2021, cognac from the EU and other grape-based brandies from France and Germany were added to this list.

Despite the decline in EU supplies, total American alcohol imports rose thanks to a 17% y-o-y increase in purchases from Mexico. The total volume of alcohol imports in the U.S. increased from 824K tonnes in 2019 to 938K tonnes in 2020.

In March 2021, the U.S. and the EU agreed to a 4-month reciprocal suspension of trade tariffs on alcohol and spirits, excluding American whiskey, which should bolster trade between the two.

Among trends in the American market for spirits this year, the rapidly growing popularity of ready-to-drink beverages (often called RTD), an increase in the demand for beer, flavored malt beverages and high-end alcohol stand out. A rise in the number of direct-to-consumer shipments from in-state distilleries, aided by the development of e-commerce and new laws permitting such trade can also be observed.

Spirits and Liqueur Production in the U.S.

Spirits and liqueurs production in the U.S. rose to 1.9M tonnes in 2020, surging by 4.8% against the year before. The total output volume increased at an average annual rate of +4.5% over the period from 2018 to 2020.

In value terms, spirits and liqueurs production expanded modestly to $14.4B in 2020. The total output value increased at an average annual rate of +4.5% from 2018 to 2020.

Spirits and Liqueur Exports from the U.S.

After two years of growth, shipments abroad of spirits, liqueurs and other spirituous beverages decreased by -10.3% to 272K tonnes in 2020. In value terms, spirits and liqueurs exports contracted modestly to $1.9B (IndexBox estimates) in 2020.

Panama (53K tonnes) was the main destination for spirits and liqueurs exports from the U.S., with a 19% share of total exports. Moreover, spirits and liqueurs exports to Panama exceeded the volume sent to the second major destination, Australia (26K tonnes), twofold. Spain (25K tonnes) ranked third in terms of total exports with a 9.2% share.

In value terms, the largest markets for spirits and liqueurs exported from the U.S. were Panama ($361M), Canada ($325M) and the Netherlands ($169M), with a combined 44% share of total exports.

The average spirits and liqueurs export price stood at $7,102 per tonne in 2020, with an increase of 7.4% against the previous year. In 2020, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was recorded for supplies to Panama, while the prices for the other major destinations experienced more modest paces of growth.

Spirits and Liqueur Imports into the U.S.

Spirits and liqueurs imports into the U.S. expanded significantly to 938K tonnes in 2020, growing by 14% against the year before. The total import volume increased at an average annual rate of +12.5% from 2018 to 2020.

In value terms, spirits and liqueurs imports expanded sharply to $8.9B (IndexBox estimates) in 2020. The total import value increased at an average annual rate of +10.4% from 2018 to 2020.

Mexico (208K tonnes), Canada (158K tonnes) and France (115K tonnes) were the main suppliers of spirits and liqueurs imports to the U.S., together comprising 51% of total imports. These countries were followed by the UK, the Netherlands, Latvia, Ireland, Sweden, Poland and Italy, which together accounted for a further 38%.

In value terms, the largest spirits and liqueurs suppliers to the U.S. were Mexico ($2.7B), France ($2.5B) and the UK ($1.4B), together comprising 75% of total imports. Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia, Italy and Poland lagged somewhat behind, together accounting for a further 21%.

The average spirits and liqueurs import price stood at $9,492 per tonne in 2020, waning by -2.6% against the previous year. In 2020, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Mexico, while the prices for the other major suppliers experienced more modest paces of growth.

Source: IndexBox Platform