Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 11:15 UK

Shoppers 'head north for drink'

Beer sales are down 12.4% in the Irish Republic

Cross border shopping has been blamed for an "unprecedented" fall in alcohol sales in the Irish Republic.

Sales fell by 13% in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period last year.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) said the major increase in people buying cheaper drink in Northern Ireland and the dire economic situation were the main factors.

The group said businesses and jobs were at risk in the border region.

DIGI Chairman, Kieran Tobin, said the figures confirmed the worst fears of the industry.

"The largest decline was in spirits with 19.1%, followed by beer 12.4%, cider 12.0% and wine 10.6%. These are enormous and unprecedented rates of decrease and reflect the overall expectation of a very large GDP decline in 2009.

"The data is generally used as a measure of consumption.

"However, given the continuing attractiveness of cross border shopping and the scale of this decline Republic of Ireland consumers are undoubtedly continuing to source some of their alcohol products from over the border."

He said cross border shopping remains attractive even after the UK budget in April because of the favourable euro rate of exchange, lower UK taxes and generally lower business and labour costs in Northern Ireland.

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