US food distributor Nash Finch has reported a 49% rise in first-quarter net earnings, helped by strong food sales.

The company posted earnings for the first quarter of 2005 of US$7.0m, or 54 cents per share, compared to $4.7m, or 38 cents per share, for the first quarter last year.

Total sales for the quarter rose to $882.2m from $879.5m in the prior-year quarter. Nash Finch said sales growth in the food distribution and military segments more than offset the revenue impact of closing the company's underperforming retail stores at the end of the second quarter 2004.

"We are pleased with the results of our quarter which are in line with our expectations and represent increases in profitability across all segments of our business," said Ron Marshall, chief executive officer. "Moreover we completed the acquisition of the distribution centres in Lima and Westville shortly after the close of the first quarter and integration efforts are proceeding according to plan."