Belgium’s brewers saw volumes fall at home and abroad in 2023, according to figures released by the local industry association.

Last year, 6.5m hectolitres of beer were sold in Belgium, down 5.8% on 2022, the Belgian Brewers trade body said.

The association said the fall in domestic consumption “was not new for the sector”, pointing to declining sales for more than two decades.

However, Belgian Brewers – which counts Anheuser-Busch InBev among its members – highlighted the 7.5% drop in export volumes brewers endured in 2023.

Some 15m hectolitres of Belgian beer were sold outside the country, down from 16.2m in 2022. In 2019, the country sold 18.4m hectolitres of its beer in export markets.

Belgian Brewers said higher costs, including for salaries and energy, had affected the competitiveness of its beer overseas.

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“Our brewers are showing incredible resilience to meet the challenges they face as they have always done in the past. The glass is and always will be half full,” Krishan Maudgal, the director of Belgian Brewers, said, with an eye on the country’s recent election. “We call on the political decision-makers of tomorrow to design thoughtful policies during the next legislature in order to guarantee, with us, the competitiveness of our sector and to protect and promote the culture of Belgian beer.”

France remained the biggest export market for Belgium’s beer in 2023, although sales stood at just over 5m hectolitres, down from 5.7m hectolitres in 2022.

Among the rest of Belgium’s five biggest customers for its beer, sales also fell in Germany, where 666,916 hectolitres were sold, compared to 976,170 hectolitres in 2022, a drop of more than 46%.

However, sales in each of the three markets making up the rest of the top five all grew year on year.

Sales in the Netherlands, number two on the list, grew 2.5% to 3.6m hectolitres.

In Spain, the third-largest market, sales were up 19.6% to 1.9m hectolitres.

Italy overtook Germany to become the fourth biggest destination for Belgium’s beer. Sales increased 14.6% to 994,711 hectolitres.

According to the data, Belgium is the second-largest exporter of beer in the EU behind the Netherlands.

While Belgium’s beer exports to the EU were down 4.4% to 12.8bn hectolitres, shipments outside the bloc slid more than 22% to 2.21bn hectolitres.

Dutch brewers saw their domestic beer sales fall in 2023, dropping 5.6% to 11.6m hectolitres. Exports dipped 1.5% to 12.7m hectolitres, according to local trade association Nederlandse Brouwers.

Beer sales also fell in Germany in 2023 after a brief upturn a year earlier, according to federal data released in February. Exports were also lower year on year.