• Kyodo News

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Beer shipments in May fell 3.1 percent from a year earlier to 38.92 million cases, marking the first drop in three months, partly due to fewer shipment days than the previous year, brewers and the Brewers Association of Japan reported Wednesday.

Shipments to restaurants declined, while those in Osaka and its vicinity were also sluggish in the reporting month, indicating consumers refrained from going out amid the H1N1 swine flu epidemic that hit the region. One case contains 20 633-milliliter bottles.

Of the total beer shipments, conventional beer declined 7.3 percent and “happoshu” low-malt beer 11.0 percent. But shipments of lower-priced “third-category beer” increased 13.6 percent.

Among brewers, shipments decreased about 9 percent for Suntory Liquors Ltd., about 3 percent for Kirin Brewery Co. and about 2.5 percent for Asahi Breweries Ltd. Sapporo Breweries Ltd., however, saw an increase of about 3 percent on the strength of brisk third-category beer sales.

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