Beer sales across the UK fell by 5% in volume for the second quarter of 2009, showing a slight improvement on the start of the year, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.

Sales fell 4.5% in the on-trade and 5.2% among retailers for the three months to the end of June, compared to the same period of the year before.

The 4.8% drop in total beer sales is an improvement on an 8% fall in the first quarter of the year, but shows that the beer sector remains under significant pressure. Almost 55m fewer pints were bought in pubs during the quarter, compared to the second quarter of last year.

BBPA chief executive David Long said: "The new figures give some ground for cautious optimism that some speck of faint light may be appearing at the end of the tunnel."

But, he added: "Consumer spending on beer remains constrained in both pubs and supermarkets. Considerable economic uncertainty remains about the short and medium term. We must therefore remain careful not to take too much from what are still disappointing figures."

Government tax revenues from beer sales fell by GBP156m for the first half of 2009, compared to 2008, despite a duty tax rise, the BBPA said.

Late last week, the Office of Fair Trading said it would launch an inquiry into the legal relationship between pub companies and tenants, following complaints that the "beer tie" is harming tenants' financial position.

Around 52 pubs are closing down every week, according to BBPA figures.