VILNIUS - Lithuanian brewers are eager to begin exporting beer to Poland after May 1.
Though some are still studying possibilities of the neighboring market, others have already signed contracts with Polish retailers, the business daily Verslo Zinios reported this week.
Vidmantas Verbickas, deputy secretary at the Lithuanian Embassy in Poland, told the paper, "Poland's beer import volumes are small, and this is partly because such producers as Heineken, Carlsberg and Pilsner have plants here. Lithuanian beer has not been available in retail stores until now."
Ragutis, the Lithuanian brewery controlled by Finland's Olvi, has already signed two annual contracts with Polish retailers. The company, which is based in Kaunas, intends to start exporting Horn beer in bottles in May, when the Baltics become members of the European Union.
According to Verslo Zinios, Svyturys-Utenos Alus and Kalnapilio-Tauro Grupe, Lithuania's biggest breweries in terms of sales, are also exploring the possibilities of exporting beer to Poland.
To be sure, the westward expansion won't be confined to beverage producers. VP Market, the Baltics' largest retail chain based in Vilnius, is planning to expand into the Polish market this year as well.
Poland's beer output totaled 2.73 billion liters last year. The Zyviec Group was the leading beer producer with a 37 percent market share, followed by Kompania Piwowarska with a 34 percent market share.
Poland's per capita annual beer consumption amounts to 68 liters, close to the Baltic states' average level of 67 liters.
Domestic beer sales in Lithuania declined by 6.6 percent to 241.6 million liters in 2003.