Poland's three largest brewers saw sales rise in Q1, but fear the impending entry into the European Union could hamper any future growth for them. The brewers believe that the country's accession to the EU on 1 May could lead to a flood of cheap imports from neighbouring countries.

Industry group Browary Polskie said that the total sales at breweries including Zywiec, SABMiller's Kompania Piwowarska and Carlsberg's Okocim rose by 6% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, to 5.1m hectolitres. The brewers are concerned, however, that Poles may buy beer in the Czech Republic or Germany, where excise tax is about 20% of Polish levels.

Speaking at a news conference, Zywiec and Browary Polskie head Nico Nusmeier said: "We are optimistic about beer consumption. Taking into account the changing structure of alcohol consumption in Poland and consumers' disposable income, the growth trend should be continued.

"But we are worried that beer sales (growth) will be lower than we have seen so far," he added. "That might be less than 6% this year."

The Polish finance ministry has responded to an industry campaign for lower tax by saying that excise accounts for a relatively small proportion of the final cost of beer, and that brewers should focus instead on cutting their distribution costs.