The annual report of the Belgian brewers' federation shows that the downward trend of domestic beer consumption continues with Belgians drinking less beer last year. The figures also reveal that exports that have been the good news in the Belgian beer sector in recent years have been hit too.
Sven Gatz of the Belgian Brewers identifies French duty as the bogeyman. Last year France significantly increased duty on beer. Mr Gatz says that as a result beer is being taxed ten times more heavily than wine. For special beers the ratio can increase to 17 times. Mr Gatz now has his hopes pinned on the European Commission that is examining a complaint against French protectionism launched by the Belgian brewers.
The director of the Belgian Brewers concedes that the European beer market is saturated as far as Belgian exports are concerned, but points to opportunities in the US. Belgian brewers also have high hopes for Asia and Latin America: here there are strong increases, but overall exports to these countries make little impact on the overall figures.