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Latvia has turned from a beer producer to an importer – independent breweries

The Latvian beer industry is currently at a historic low point, and we have turned from a beer-producing country into a beer importer, Reinis Plavins, chairman of the Latvian Independent Brewers Association and head of the Labietis brewery, told LETA in an interview, adding that 60 percent of the beer consumed in Latvia is imported.

According to him, since 2016, Latvia has been drinking more imported beer than domestic beer, which is completely against the interests of small brewers and the country as a whole.

“We import 100 million liters of beer out of the 150-160 million liters we drink. What is most galling for us is that 150 years ago beer was exported from Latvia as far as Kamchatka, throughout the former Russian Empire. Riga and Latvia as a whole was the center of beer production, with the largest, most modern and most export-oriented breweries, but all that is left today is that we import beer with Latvian names from the Lithuanians and Estonians. Lielvardes, Madonas, Lacplesis, Aldaris, partly Bauskas and partly Mezpils – none of them are produced in Latvia,” said Plavins.

The head of the association pointed out that the Baltic market is small and producers locate their large capacities where it is more profitable, and the rest of the Baltic market becomes consumers. “Unfortunately, in the case of Latvia, two big global players – Carlsberg (Aldaris) and Royal Unibrew (Bauskas Alus, Lielvarde, Lacplesis, Livu, Madonas) – have decided that it is more profitable for them to produce in neighboring countries and only sell in Latvia. Recently, data was published on the countries that import the most beer, and Latvia is in third place in the world. Every resident, including infants and the elderly, pays EUR 55 every year for beer that is not produced in Latvia,” said Plavins.

He said that this was why Latvia’s independent brewers had formed an association at the beginning of the year, to give the global players a bit of a run for their money. “At the time of the association’s foundation, there were 14 breweries, and now we have added two more. We have the potential to increase our membership by another 10-15 members in total. We will definitely follow up on this issue, as for now, due to time constraints, other small brewers have not yet been personally approached,” said the head of the association.

He also stressed that the main objective of the association is to preserve and promote the development of the Latvian beer industry. “Over the last 10-15 years, the beer industry has been in decline, both in terms of beer consumption and the share of local beer in total consumption. The beer industry is the oldest industry, mentioned already in the Chronicles of Indrikis, beer has been sung in thousands of folk songs and has become part of Latvian identity, so it is very sad that it is in decline,” said Plavins.

Source: BNS

(Reproduction of BNS information in mass media and other websites without written consent of BNS is prohibited.)

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