Domestic beer volumes in China dropped in the first half of this year as imports continued to grow, new figures show.

Volumes for domestic brands including Yanjing and Tsingtao fell 8% in the six months to the end of June, according to FT Confidential Research, a research service from the Financial Times. The decline was blamed on bad weather and a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

Imports were up 63% as importation costs declined and on-trade consumption increased, the study said.

Despite the rise, imported beers still account for just 1% of overall volumes.

The FT study said that domestic beers are expected to return to moderate growth but China's beer market will continue to be affected by consolidation and a move towards higher-margin products.

In a survey of 1,000 beer drinkers, 58% usually pay more than CNY6 (US$0.95) for a 33cl bottle, a level considered mid-range and above.

China is expected to investigate Anheuser-Busch InBev's takeover of SABMiller because it may contravene anti-trust regulations. A-B InBev claims to have a 57% share of the premium category in China while SABMiller owns 49% of CR Snow, China's biggest brewer by volume.