Pakistan brewer eyes Indian sales amid peace moves.


CALCUTTA, India, May 13 (Reuters) - The lone brewery in Islamic Pakistan, which has tough curbs on alcohol, said on Tuesday it hopes peace moves with India could pave the way for sales to its neighbour where the beer market is far bigger.

"We look forward to it if relations improve," said M.P Bhandara, Managing Director of Rawalpindi-based Murree Brewery Co Ltd and a member of a team of Pakistani lawmakers visiting India on a friendship mission.

New Delhi named a new ambassador to Pakistan on Tuesday, the latest step toward better ties between the nuclear-armed rivals which came close to war last year.

Alcohol consumption in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, is limited as alcohol can only be sold to non-Muslims and tourists. "Very few in Pakistan can legally drink," Bhandara told reporters in Calcutta on the sidelines of a business conference.

Official bilateral trade between India, which has more than one billion people, and Pakistan, whose population totals 146 million, stood at $204 million in the year to March 2002. Economists say if the peace moves gain pace, Pakistan's economy would benefit through export access to its larger neighbour.

India consumes over 72 million cases of beer a year -- at least 20 times Murree Brewery's annual output -- though the country's 0.5 litre per capita consumption lags way behind China's 18 litres.

"What we make (at Murree brewery) in a year is what an average-sized German brewery makes in three days," Bhandara said.

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