The leading Venezuelan brewer, Cerveceria Polar, is forecasting its beer sales in 2003 will fall to between 1.1 billion and 1.15 billion litres, against 1.35 billion litres in 2002.

Polar's director, Hernan Perez, said the economic crisis in Venezuela had impacted on beer sales. "The domestic beer market is forecast to contract by about 20% this year," Perez said. "In the case of Cerveceria Polar sales, we estimate that contraction will be slightly less than the market at around 15% to 20%."

Polar, which is privately owned, controls around 75% of the Venezuelan beer market, making it one of the top five brewers in Latin America. Its principal brands are Polar, Solera, Polar Ice, Polar Light and Vox.