SCOTLAND’S overseas food and drink exports increased by £296 million – 11% – in the first half of 2019, to a record high of £3 billion.

The latest trade statistics from HMRC show that whisky exports were integral to that growth, increasing to £2.2 billion – up 10.8% from the same period last year.

However, the European Union remained the single biggest market for whisky, accounting for almost 30% of all exports, which increased by 6.1% (£36 million) compared to the first half of 2018.

In fact, the European Community bought £543 million of total Scottish food exports – almost two-thirds of the total value and an increase of £50 million relative to the same period in 2018.

Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland’s food and drink sector continues to go from strength to strength, thanks in part to a close working relationship between government and the industry in recent years. It’s now an integral part of our economy, worth £15 billion, and employs thousands across the country.

“These latest figures serve to remind us just how important our European neighbours are to that success though, and exactly how much we stand to lose by leaving the European Union – particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This government will do everything we can to ensure that does not happen, and support our food and drink sector to continue to flourish.”