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    A difficult year in Belgium for the brewing sector

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Consumption of beer in Belgium continued to decline last year, but in a more pronounced way. In total, 7.7 million hectoliters were sold, a decrease of 3.3% compared to the volumes observed in 2015. The average annual decrease over the last 20 years was 1.4%, announced the Federation of Belgian Brewers Friday. Consumption of beer per capita is expected to fall below 70 liters per year. Another trend that was confirmed: exports have brought smiles to the brewers. They continue to grow and 14.1 million hectoliters shipped outside our borders in 2016 accounted for almost double the domestic consumption.

    The president of the federation, Jean-Louis Van de Perre, put forward several reasons for the decline in consumption in Belgium. “The attacks of 22 March have certainly had an impact on the economic and social life in the country and the HoReCa has suffered significantly. The tax shift and its raising of the excise decided upon at the end of 2015 also had an effect on this whereas the overall global gloominess has not helped to fill the cafe terraces.”

    Consumption in the HoReCa industries fell by 4.4%, while distribution softened the drop (-2.4%). By type of beer, the decline of the pilsener has been confirmed in favor of connoisseur’s beers. Consumption of pilseners, which still holds a 71% market share, declined by 4.3% in 2016, while connoisseur’s beers (regional, blond, stout …) rose by 3.5%.

    Abroad, the march forward of the Belgian beers continues. Exports increased by 8.1% compared to 2015. The recovery in France, the leading export market, is now clear (+8.1%), almost three years after the French government’s decision to increase the excise duties on beer. Belgian brewers are also continuing to improve in the United States market (+16.1%), despite the success of local beers across the Atlantic. With 2.2 million hectoliters of imported Belgian beer, the United States is now close behind the Netherlands (2.32 million), the second largest importer of the Belgian national beverage.

    Sarah Johansson
    The Brussels Times