The Chancellor's decision in last year's Budget to scrap the beer duty escalator and cut beer duty was an historic one - the first real cut in fifty years.
It was a much-needed boost for our industry after years of crippling tax increases.
It was also a welcome and well-deserved break for beer drinkers across the country, representing a penny off a pint.
2013 also saw other good news for beer and pubs. Beer sales increased for two consecutive quarters for the first time in ten years. We saw the launch of Let There Be Beer, a ground-breaking cross-industry collaboration to celebrate all that's great about beer. 2013 also saw important investment in brewing, innovation, quality, skills and training by the industry. This is set to continue, with brewers and pubs having committed to invest over £400 million this year.
But tax hikes on beer of 42 per cent in five years have taken their toll. Between 2008 and 2013 we saw beer sales falling 21 per cent, 7,000 pubs closing, and the loss of 58,000 jobs. Even with last year's cut, the UK still has the second highest rate of beer duty in the EU, with research showing that one in five workers are putting off going to the pub until payday because they simply can't afford it.
Despite this, the beer and pub sector continues to make a vital contribution to the UK economy, supporting 900,000 jobs, adding £22 billion to the economy and contributing £9.5 billion in tax. Today, one job in brewing supports one job in agriculture, one in the supply chain, one in retailing and 18 in pubs.
As we all know, pubs are also central to the social fabric of this country. They are at the heart of local communities, visited by 30 million people at least once a month. And as the nation's favourite drink, beer is fundamental to their survival and success, representing seven in ten drinks sold in pubs.
This is why it is so important that in next week's Budget the Chancellor does not take a backwards step and increase beer duty in line with inflation. Instead we are calling on him to freeze beer duty. It could save another 2,400 jobs this year alone, rising to an additional 5,000 people in employment by 2016. At a cost of £4 million to the Treasury, it is small beer. Yet it would have the support of almost 70 per cent of the adult population.
So, Dear Chancellor, please don't undo your good work. For the sake of pubs, brewers and beer drinkers across the country, vote for beer next week and freeze duty. I will certainly be among the first to raise a glass to you, if you do.
Inge Plochaet, President of AB InBev UK & Ireland, calls on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to freeze beer duty ahead of the 2014 Budget Statement.
To find out more about the campaign, go to beerandpub.com/hot-topics/beer-duty.