Fresh Del Monte Produce has blamed lower pricing, sales and increased competition in Asian and UK markets for 2005 fourth quarter net sales figures lower than last year.
 
The producer and distributor of fruit and vegetables today (1 March) reported financial and operating results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2005.

Net sales for the 2005 fourth quarter were US$757.9m, down compared with $818.2m in the same period last year. The company said its decrease was due to lower banana pricing, increased competition in Asia and the UK, and lower sales of gold pineapples during the holiday periods. Gross profit for the year was $311.5m, compared with gross profit of $264.7m in 2004.

Yearly sales, however, increased to $3.3bn from $2.9bn in 2004 - put down to contributions from Del Monte's prepared food business, increased sales and higher banana selling prices in Europe.

Del Monte said fourth quarter and full year gross profit was adversely affected by substantially higher production and transportation costs.

Chairman and CEO Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh said: "Due to a series of external challenges such as weak banana markets in Asia and higher costs of fuel, transportation and fruit production, the fourth quarter of 2005 was the toughest fourth quarter we have faced in five years.

"We will continue to focus on our core product lines, making investments to support new product launches and seeking attractive opportunities in growth markets. We see 2006 as a year of restoring growth with a relentless focus on cost savings."