Latest figures show second quarter of decline in exports though annual figures ahead 4.2%
Scottish manufactured export volumes dropped 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 against the previous quarter, though volumes rose 4.2 on an annual basis.
Latest official figures show an overall slowdown in exports over the past two quarters and annual exports remain 6.4 per cent below pre-recession levels.
The figures, compiled by Scotland's chief statistician, show the food and drink sector was the largest exports contributor though volume exports from this sector fell 2.9 per cent in the first quarter.
These latest figures, covering January to the end of March 2012, represent the first fall in drink exports since early 2010.
However, the Index of Manufactured Exports suggests export volumes over four quarters against the previous four quarters puts export grown for the food and drink sector overall at 8.8 per cent.
The fall in first quarter exports was offset by a 1.4 per cent rise in engineering and allied industry exports and a 2.4 per cent rise from the chemicals and refined petroleum sectors.
But there were drops in first quarter exports of metals and metals products (-6 per cent), wood, paper, publishing and printing (-5.9 per cent) and textiles, clothing and leather (-4.6 per cent).
The total volume of exports from the manufacturing sector in Scotland rose by 4.2 per cent on an annual basis to the end of March 2012, based on annual growth across four quarters against the previous year's figures.
The largest contribution to annual growth was the food and drink sector, up 8.8 per cent, followed by engineering and allied industries, up 2.9 per cent, and chemicals and refined petroleum products, up 5.2 per cent.
But offsetting that growth were drops of 13 per cent in wood, paper and publishing and printing.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “Taken over the year manufactured exports in Scotland have grown strongly, with growth of 8.8 per cent in the food and drink sector making the largest contribution to the total.
“We have also seen significant annual growth in textiles, transport equipment, chemicals and mechanical engineering.
“However, there has been a slowdown over the past two quarters.
“This reflects the on-going economic uncertainty in the Eurozone and a less competitive exchange rate.
“It is also further evidence that the UK Government’s austerity approach is failing and yet again, I am urging Westminster to invest now to promote economic growth.
“Food producers continue do well with 3.4 per cent growth over the quarter.
“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 per cent.
“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.”
Chief executive of Scottish Development International Anne MacColl said: "Together with our colleagues in Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS), Scottish Development International is committed to helping home-grown manufacturing companies adapt to the changing patterns of international trade by targeting a range of overseas markets that offer significant growth opportunities.
“By doing so, we can help more companies realise their international trade plans, ultimately driving home long-term sustainable growth for the Scottish economy.”