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Combined shipments of beer and “happoshu,” a low-malt, beer-like liquor, fell 17.4 percent to 667,646 kiloliters in July from a year earlier, according to data released Friday by the nation’s five major brewers.

According to the five — Asahi Breweries Ltd., Kirin Brewery Co., Sapporo Breweries Ltd., Suntory Ltd. and Orion Breweries Ltd. — the decline followed a 15.2 percent year-on-year increase the month before, a period of intensified competition that made brewers cautious about further shipments in July.

Consumer preference for happoshu caused shipments of the low-priced drink to rise 4.4 percent year-on-year to 178,929 kiloliters, while those of beer declined 23.3 percent to 488,717 kiloliters.

Asahi Breweries, the only brewer to disclose shipment figures, said beer shipments slipped 14.9 percent, but favorable sales of happoshu, which hit the market in February, helped boost combined shipments by 4.3 percent.

Meanwhile, combined shipments from Kirin Brewery marked a double-digit fall, after they jumped in June on various new sales campaigns, and those from Sapporo Breweries increased. Combined shipments from Suntory fell about 10 percent.

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