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MINE'S A LARGE MINERAL WATER.

Byline: BY MICHELLE O'KEEFFE

IRISH punters are sobering up as alcohol consumption fell by six per cent last year, it was revealed yesterday.

People are turning their backs on beer, cider, spirits and wine as sales slide to the level of a decade ago.

The latest figures showed cider consumption fell by 11 per cent last year, spirits were down by 7.7 per cent, beer by five per cent and wine had shrank by 4.1 per cent.

And the drinks industry fears thousands of jobs will be axed if the trend continues.

The chairman of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland Kieran Tobin said: "Despite a major increase in population in the last decade, our consumption levels have fallen to 1997 levels.

"In fact, with the increase in population over the last 10 years, per capita consumption has fallen by 7.7 per cent last year compared with 2007.

"The consequences for the drinks industry are stark.

"The net effect will be dramatically increased closures of bars, restaurants, hotels and even some off-licenses to join the 1,500 pubs that have closed their doors in recent years.

"Further job losses are inevitable. The drinks industry provides work for more than 100,000 people in Ireland. But the redundancies at Bulmers that were announced last week and the prospective job losses at other major brewers are likely to be only the beginning if the decline accelerates during the economic downturn."

Mr Tobin called on the Government not to make the situation worse by increasing taxes and to consider lowering VAT and excise rates.

He said: "Cross-border shopping and the availability of cheaper alcohol in the North is having a detrimental effect on the industry in the South.

"As the staggering fall in spirits sales demonstrates that consumers are opting - quite understandably - to avail of the cheaper prices available in the North.

"The Government must act to prevent the haemorrhaging of sales.

"To prevent job losses, sales, and the decimation of retailers in the border, they must consider cutting excise and VAT rates to make us more competitive."

Jobs fears as booze sales collapse to 11-year low

How fizz went flat

Cider 11%

Spirits 7.7&

Beer 5%

Wine 4.1%

CAPTION(S):

PARTY'S OVER Booze sales
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 3, 2009
Words:377
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