Finland-based dairy group Valio has reported a 4% fall in annual sales, a sign of how the business was affected by Russia's embargo on EU dairy products.

Valio posted net sales of EUR1.95bn for 2014, down 3.9% on 2013.

Before the ban was introduced in August, Russia was Valio's biggest export market. It said it had expected sales to Russia to hit EUR400m but they instead stood at EUR258m.

As well as the slump in sales to Russia, the ban left Valio looking for a market for its milk bound for the market. The company processed the milk into industrial butter and milk powder for world markets, where prices were at a "record low", it said.

Valio's total international sales tumbled 9%. The company also found the going tough domestically. Net sales in Finland dipped 0.8%.

The group pointed to the macro-economic situation in Finland, which it said "made consumers focus even further on price".

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By GlobalData

Valio is owned by Finnish milk producer co-operatives and through them by milk producers. The trading conditions and Valio's sales performance meant the price paid by the co-operatives to the milk producers also fell. Valio pays the profit accrued from its operations to the milk producers through the dairy co-operatives.

The company says it "does not strive to make a profit per se" and said its "most significant key figure" is the milk return it generates, on the basis of which the price paid for raw milk is determined.

It said the Valio Group milk return fell to 43.7 cents a litre, compared to 48 cents per litre in 2013. The price paid for raw milk stood at 45.4 cents a litre, against 47.5 cents per litre a year earlier. Valio said the collapse" in the latter half of the year was not fully visible in the figures, which were "distorted by a record-high first half".