China's beer production for 2004 is set to grow by 7.4% on the previous year, hitting a total output of 7 billion gallons and sealing China's place as the world's biggest producer for the third year running, the head of the China Distillers Association said. Xiao Derun added that in the first half of 2004, rising demand had pushed brewersï¿½ pretax profits up 22% to US$1.05 billion between January and July. He said the increase in production stemmed from the purchase and consolidation of small, inefficient breweries by major brands, along with the construction of new breweries and new investment in existing ones. In 2003 Chinese drinkers downed 6.6 billion gallons of beer, pushing consumption past the United States and into the global top spot for the first time.
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