Widespread calls for a freeze on alcohol duty to help stabilise the market fell on deaf ears as Chancellor Alistair Darling pressed ahead with the expected 2% duty rise.

The announcement means that duty on beer and cider has risen by almost 20% in the past 14 months.

James Lowman of ACS called the increase "depressingly predictable" for retailers. "Every increase in duty fuels the black market and sustains the criminal gangs that thrive particularly in deprived communities," he said. "This will mean less control over who is buying alcohol."

However, moves which could see a decrease in the illicit supply of alcoholic drinks were praised by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.

A Tackling Alcohol Fraud Initiative involving HM Revenue and Customs was revealed in the Budget, aimed at supporting the legitimate wholesale trade.

FWD director general John Murphy said: "This fulfils our best hopes for strong HMRC action on duty fraud."