Tsingtao, China's leading beer producer, increased its production by close to 12% between January and September compared to the same period last year, a company official said today.

Around 2.68m metric tons of beer were produced by the company, which is part owned by Anheuser-Busch, in the nine months to the end of September.

This compared with 2.40m tons in the same period in 2002, said the official, who, talking to Dow Jones newswire, requested anonymity.

"Sales volume (for the period) shouldn't be far off production volume," he said. The official said that the company was unlikely to achieve original production targets of 3.6m tons this year. "The new target is 3.3 million tons," he said.

Beer consumption in China was hit adversely by the SARS outbreak earlier this year.