Figures released yesterday show Europe's hot summer helped Czech breweries overtake last year's production. The producer association in the Czech Republic said that breweries in the country produced 14.03m hectolitres of beer in the first nine months of 2003, a rise year-on-year of 2.4%.

At the end of June, output was level with 2002, but thanks to the good weather, sales picked up in Q3. A realistic comparison between this year and last year, however, is difficult due to the devastating floods around Europe in August last year.

Jan Vesely, chairman of the Czech Association of Breweries and Malt Houses, told CTK that he expected full-year output to be about 2% higher than last year, with exports exceeding 2m hectolitres against 1.075m hectolitres in 2002.

The medium- and long-term future for the Czech brewing industry looks positive once the Czech Republic accedes to the European Union in May. Co-entrants Poland and Hungary will then have to lift quotas on Czech beer imports, according to Vesely.