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Scottish whisky exports boom post-referendum

London - Scottish whisky exports returned to growth for the first time in five years in 2016 thanks to a weaker pound after Britain voted for Brexit, official figures show.

The exports, which account for 90 percent of total sales, increased in value by £153 million ($199 million, 171 million euros) to more than £4.0 billion last year, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

By volume, exports rose to more than 1.2 billion bottles.

"This is the first time since 2011 that both value and volume of Scotch exports recorded positive annual growth rates," the association said in a report, crediting the cheap value of sterling following Britain's vote in June 2016 to exit the European Union.

"The value of sterling depreciated considerably, effectively making UK products sold abroad more attractive from a pricing perspective," said the report.

However, it warned that leaving the EU would present challenges.

"Both ensuring a deal which allows smooth movement of goods from the UK to Europe and securing the benefits from existing EU trade deals are major objectives."

Leaving without a trade deal would risk losing benefits, including lower tariffs, in markets representing around 10 percent of exports, said the report.

Scottish whisky was directly exported to 182 countries in 2016, up from 174 in 2015.

More than 10,000 people are directly employed in the Scottish industry - up six percent in the past three years - while a further 30,000 people work in its supply chain from bottling to distribution.

Scottish whisky accounted for 1.3 percent of the total value of British export goods in 2016, with the United States, France and Singapore the top markets.