Production of beer in Belgium was down by 30% in March, mainly as a result of the measures taken to control the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the federation of Belgian Brewers reports.
Bars and restaurants were closed completely from midnight on March 13, meaning that the industry lost only half a month of on-premises sales. The April figures are expected to be much worse year-on-year, not only because the bars and restaurants will have been closed the whole month, but also because that period included the Easter holidays, typically one of the year’s sales high points.
As a result of the slump in production, many breweries have been forced to close down in whole or in part, despite the fact that shop sales are still open, and some brewers have seen an increase in deliveries to private customers.
However even those sales were affected by the economic climate during the lockdown. Many people are on temporary unemployment, many self-employed have been forced to stop work, while those who are still working are being more prudent that usual.
“It is clear that the month of April will be worse still,” said Nathalie Poissonnier, managing director of the federation.” Last week about one in three of the breweries affiliated with the federation was completely still.
To make matters worse, the government this week announced an end to all major events until August 31, which means no music festivals or sporting events. The brewers’ federation now has the uncertainty of being able to organise its own major annual event: the Brussels Beer Weekend planned for the first weekend in September.
The weekend attracts some 70,000 visitors over three days, many of them foreigners, and is an important showcase for Belgian brewers. The artisanal festival BXLBeerFest in late August has already been cancelled, as has the massive Zythos festival in Leuven planned for the end of this month.