Fresh Del Monte Produce said today (3 August) that it expects the "tough" trading conditions in Europe will take some time to improve.

The firm this morning (3 August) recorded a drop in half-yearly profits hurt by lower operating income and foreign exchange losses.

For the six months ended 2 July, net profit dropped to US$58.1m from $88.4m a year earlier. Net sales, however, reached $1.94bn, an increase on $1.86bn recorded in 2009.

In Europe in particular, sales dropped to $505.5m from $518.3m in the half-year.

Speaking to analysts on the firm's earnings call today, chairman and CEO Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh told analysts that the company was continuing to be challenged by the weakness of the global economy and in Europe in particular.

"From my perspective conditions in Europe will take some time to recover. So far it has been a very weak market in Europe in terms of function and pricing. We have quite an enlarged over supply situation in the region. Consumption [of bananas] has not been as strong as it used to be," Abu-Ghazaleh said.

He said Fresh Del Monte does not expect to see an improvement in conditions by the end of September, but possibly by the end of the year.

Despite this, the firm said it is preparing to launch a variety of melons into the European market.

"We have new varieties that will be exclusive to certain markets and this will make a difference to us," Abu-Ghazaleh said. "Our focus is stability and we are not going to produce for the sake of producing, we will produce what the market needs. This [launch] will make a huge difference. I pray that this will be the case."