- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

HELSINKI (Agence France-Presse) — Finnish alcohol retailers, bars and restaurants were replenishing their stocks yesterday ahead of an expected rush of drinkers happy to toast a historic tax cut on liquor.

The new measure, which slashes the price of strong spirits by about a third, went into effect yesterday but shopkeepers did not forecast a rush on their shops before the weekend, when Finns typically do most of their drinking.

“Our shipments started just after 12 o’clock last night and altogether 39 trucks are leaving our plant today, twice as many as usual,” said Siru Nori, spokeswoman for the state-owned distillery Altia.

With popular vodka brands like Koskenkorva and Finlandia among its products, Altia controls two-thirds of the Finnish market for hard liquor.

Mrs. Nori said the 432,000 extra bottles carried by the 19 additional trucks should be enough to replenish retailers’ supplies, which they let drop to a minimum to benefit as much as possible from the tax cut.

Extra shipments also took place from breweries across the country, the Finnish press reported yesterday.

The tax cuts are an attempt to curb “alcohol tourism” to nearby Estonia when it joins the European Union on May 1.

After the cuts, the average retail price for strong spirits dropped by a third, or to about 10 euros for a bottle of vodka. The cost of wine and beer fell between 5 and 10 percent, depending on their alcohol content.

There were only a few signs of increased activity in shops owned by the state-run spirit and wine retail chain Alko yesterday.

“There was no big rush today. A few more sales than usual but many people came into our shops just to check the new prices,” said Kari Pennanen, in charge of customer services at Alko.

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