UK beer sales could be about to turn a corner, according to new figures released by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
The BBPA said that sales saw their lowest fall for two years in the fourth quarter of 2009, indicating that they might finally be lifting out of a recessionary slump.
Overall sales dropped 3.6% for the period, with pub beer sales down 5% and supermarket and off-licence sales tailing off by 2.1%.
Meanwhile sales for the whole of 2009 fell by 4.2%, compared with 5.5% in 2008.
Sales in pubs bars and restaurants were down 5% in the final three months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008 - the lowest final quarter fall since 2006. Sales for the whole of the year dropped 5.2%, compared with a 9.3% slump in 2007.
The continuing drop in sales meant that the government's income from beer tax was also down by £258m in 2009, compared with 2008, despite duty rates being considerably higher.
Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, commented: "These figures show a sector starting to claw its way out of a recessionary slump.
"They also signal the most significant driver of problems in the pub sector over the last 12 to 18 months has been the downturn in the economy and the slide into recession, along with duty increases of over 20%. As the economy moves into recovery, so will the beer and pub sector. In fact, as in previous recessions, it may emerge first and fastest.
"However, it's too early to say whether these indicators of fragile recovery will turn into a trend, particularly when we await to see the impact of shocks such as the VAT increase and the big freeze of this month."
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By Neil Gerrard
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