Figures released yesterday show a drop in beer and soft drinks sales in Finland in 2003. Finland's Union of Brewing and Soft Drinks Companies announced that sales fell last year by 3% year-on-year to 835m litres.

Sales of soft drinks fell by 4.5% to 296.8m litres, while sales of Finnish beer dropped by 2.4% to 403.7m litres. Cider sales also fell, by 5m litres to 45.5m litres.

Sales of beer through Finland's state-owned alcohol retailing monopoly Alko fell by 9.4% and beer sales in restaurants and bars fell by 4.8%.

The drop in sales of beer and other alcoholic drinks has been blamed mainly on the rise in quantities of alcohol which Finns import privately from other countries, especially Estonia. When Estonia joins the EU in May, such imports are expected to increase even further.