Czech breweries saw their sales in the first half of 2002 increase 4% to 8.9m hectolitres (hl) of beer, compared to the same period last year, according to figures released by the Czech Brewing and Malting Association.

Like other East European countries, which have also had a good year in sales, the hot weather has attributed as a major driving force behind this increase.

The Association said many breweries are running at full capacity. It also said that over the year it expects production to rise by some 3%.

The news will be a welcome relief to the brewing industry, which experienced a decline last year of 0.24% to 17.9m hl of beer.

Exports were up 17% to 1.8m hl of beer. Czech beer is exported mainly to Germany, Slovakia, the US and Poland.

The Czech Republic claims the highest per capita beer consumption in the world. Annual per capita consumption in the country stood at 156 litres of beer last year.