Due to a tax hike in May, shipments of low-malt beer known as “happoshu” fell 2 percent in the January-June term, logging the first half-yearly drop on record, according to data released Thursday by Japan’s five major breweries.

The government raised the liquor tax on happoshu on May 1, nudging consumers to switch to cheaper low-alcohol beverages, industry officials said.

Happoshu shipments surged 32.4 percent in April ahead of the tax hike but then dived in May and June.

Total shipments of beer and happoshu decreased 7.7 percent to 3.03 million kiloliters, marking the largest margin of decline in the six-month period since statistics were taken under the current method in 1992, the officials said.

Asahi Breweries Ltd.’s shipments fell 7.7 percent, but its share increased to 39.3 percent, maintaining its top position in the period for the second straight year.

Kirin Brewery Co. followed in second place, with shipments down 7.2 percent for a share of 35.8 percent, followed by Sapporo Breweries Ltd. with a share of 13.3 percent, down from 14.1 percent a year earlier.

Suntory Ltd. had a 10.9 percent share and Orion Breweries Ltd. just 0.8 percent.

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