Canada-based organic foods producer SunOpta has posted a first-quarter loss due to a foreign exchange loss of US$1m.

For the period ended 31 March, the company realised a loss of $1.7m versus earnings of $1.5m in the first quarter of 2008.

Adjusted earnings for the first quarter were $0.1m after taking into account the additional pre-tax costs of $2.4m which were incurred during the quarter and are expected to provide "significant future benefits", the company said yesterday (7 May).

During the quarter, SunOpta incurred a $1m pre-tax in start-up costs related to its Modesto soymilk processing and packaging facility which is scheduled to begin production later this month.

Segment operating income for the first quarter reflected a loss of $0.4m compared to income of $5.4m in the first quarter of 2008.

Revenues however, increased to $232.1m from $230.4m in the comparable period of 2008. The figure reflects an $8.4m increase in revenues from the SunOpta Food Group, offset by declines in revenue in non-core businesses of $6.7m.

President and CEO Steve Bromley said: "The company's primary focus for 2009 remains the improvement of operating margins and return on assets employed through working capital management and a tight focus on capital spending.

"The first quarter was marked by continued consumer uncertainty and market volatility resulting from the deterioration in global economic conditions. While market conditions were difficult, we have remained focused on numerous cost control, efficiency, product development and asset utilisation initiatives that we believe will position the company for improved returns."

The company said it has decided to take a "cautious approach" to providing guidance, and so has not provided specific revenue and earnings guidance for 2009. SunOpta said it will provide updates "when appropriate".