Domestic beer consumption in the first seven months surged 8.7 percent against the same period last year to about 1.7 billion litres, according to the General Statistics Office.

In July alone, consumers drank 279.1 million litres of beer, up 14 percent year-on-year, regardless of the economic difficulties.

The office said that beer production was one of few industrial sectors whose Index of Industrial Production (IIP) grew this year. The index is used to assess the industrial sectors' health. The IIP of the beer industry in the first seven months surged 15.6 percent compared with the same period last year.

During January-July, Vietnamese beer producers Sabeco and Habeco remained the country's largest producers, accounting for more than 65 percent of the industry's output.

With beer industry's annual growth rate of 15 percent, Vietnam is one of the largest beer consumers in the world.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, beer consumption jumped from 1.29 billion litres in 2003 to more than 2.7 billion litres last year.

Director of the ministry's Light Industry Department Phan Chi Dung took the Mekong Delta provinces as examples, saying that beer consumption in one Mekong province rose from 10 million litres in 2004 to 40-70 million litres last year.

Because of the huge demand, many breweries with capacities of hundreds of millions of litres per year have been built in recent years. The country currently has about 350 beer breweries, 20 of which have a capacity of more than 20 million litres a year. Fifteen have capacities of over 15 million litres a year, while 268 produce under a million litres a year.

Meanwhile, imported beer volumes have risen sharply to roughly 140 million litres last year./.