Ireland's alcoholic drinks industry has suffered its worst year in more than a quarter of a century and 9,000 jobs are set to be lost in 2009, trade body The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) has warned.

Kieran Tobin, chairman of the group, said today (23 March) that 2008 was the worst 12 months for the Irish drinks industry in 25 years.

Speaking at the launch of DIGI's Drinks Market Performance 2008 report, Tobin warned that flagging sales could mean up to 9,000 more job losses across the sector in 2009.

"This will come on top of those losses that have already been sustained in the past year, meaning that the numbers employed in the sector will have fallen from 100,000 to approximately 80,000 in just over two years," he said.

Last Autumn, Ireland became the first European Union member state to fall into recession.

Alcohol consumption fell by 5.9% for 2008 in volume terms, dragged down by a 7.2% drop in the second six months of the year, DIGI figures show.

All four alcoholic drinks categories suffered volume declines: cider was down 11%, spirits 7.7%, beer 5%, and wine 4.1%. As a result, the value of the alcohol market overall fell by 2.5% to EUR6.9bn.

Jobs are particularly at risk in the on-trade, while retail staff in the north of the Republic face growing pressure from consumers travelling into Northern Ireland to buy their drinks.

Tobin called on the Government not to increase the pressure on industry by raising duty tax in 2009.