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Beer shipments by the nation’s top five brewers in March edged down 0.4 percent from a year earlier after posting the first year-on-year rise in 47 months in February, according to reports released Monday.

Shipments of domestic beer by Kirin Brewery Co., Asahi Breweries Ltd., Sapporo Holdings Ltd., Suntory Ltd. and Orion Breweries Ltd. totaled 23.09 million cases in March. One case holds 12.66 liters, equivalent to 20 633-ml bottles.

Combined shipments of beer and “happoshu” low-malt beer by the five brewers fell 4.7 percent in March to 39.23 million cases for the third straight year-on-year decrease, as shipments of happoshu dropped 10 percent to 16.08 million cases.

Officials at the brewers attributed the decline in happoshu shipments largely to the popularity of a new beerlike alcoholic beverage, such as Sapporo’s Draft One, which is based on peas and uses neither malt nor wheat.

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