Scotland's export sales see quarterly fall but overall yearly rise
Scotland's export sales took a dip in the last quarter but have grown overall in the last 12 months.
The food and drink sector made the largest contribution to the full-year growth of 4.2%.
The latest figures from the Scottish Index of Manufactured Exports showed a fall of 0.6% in real terms during the first quarter of 2012.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said the reduction reflected the ongoing economic uncertainty in the Eurozone.
Despite strong growth in food and drink export sales over the year, the sector saw a fall of 2.8% in the first quarter of 2012.
This fall was partially offset by growth in the engineering and allied industries (+1.4%) and chemicals and refined petroleum (+2.4%) sectors.
Quarterly falls were also recorded in the exports of the metals and metals products sector, the wood, paper, publishing and printing sector, and the textiles, clothing and leather sector.
However, overall growth was seen in the last 12 months in the textiles, transport equipment, chemicals and mechanical engineering sectors.
Mr Swinney said: "The quarterly fall in drink exports follows the extremely strong performance of the sector during 2011 after nearly two years of uninterrupted growth. Taken annually, exports from the drinks sector are up 9.2%.
"While the European economies continue to struggle, we are seeing the emergence of growth markets in Asia and South America and we have to be prepared to make the most of these opportunities.
"Through our enterprise agencies, the Scottish government is strengthening Scotland's economic links in overseas markets. We are encouraging more growth companies to become active exporters and we are widening our support to help them do so."
Analysts said the latest figures illustrated the unpredictability of the current exporting climate.
Duncan Irvine, head of corporate banking at Barclays Scotland, said: "The old and new guard of Scottish heavy industry - engineering and petrochemicals - both posted small upturns, however performance across the board is disappointingly muted.
"Confidence will continue to be a major barrier, not helped by the recent contraction of the UK and US manufacturing sectors and less than flattering economic predictions of stagnation for Scotland."
He added: "With the ongoing impact on demand from the eurozone crisis, savvy Scots exporters will be aggressively pursuing untapped markets to drive growth and minimise risk."
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said it was disappointing that exports dipped into negative territory at the beginning of this year.
Chief executive Liz Cameron said: "It seems apparent that much of this fall was due to a weakness in drinks exports and this should underline the need to ensure that our drinks industry is valued and treated fairly by government, especially in terms of taxation and regulation.
"We must also remember that seven of Scotland's top 10 export destinations are eurozone countries and a more general and sustainable recovery in exports will require the adoption of an effective plan to deal with the continental debt crisis."
CBI Scotland commented that while the dip in fortunes for exporters during the first quarter was disappointing, it hoped it would prove short-lived as its own surveys suggested industry was more confident about its export prospects for the year ahead.
The Index of Manufactured Exports (IME) is a quarterly National Statistics Product for Scotland. It estimates real terms changes to the volume of export sales from manufacturing businesses located in Scotland.