South Africn poultry producer Astral Foods has booked a 31% jump in earnings for the first six months of the year, despite lower sales.

The company said today (16 May) that first-half headline earnings increased by 31% to ZAR242m (US$34.5m). Operating profit was up 23% in the six months to the end of March, climbing to ZAR375.3m, thanks to improved production efficiencies and lower feed costs.

However, sales were down 2% to ZAR4.21bn. The group's poultry division saw sales dip 1% due to a fall in volumes that was only partially offset by higher pricing. Meanwhile, the group's feed division saw sales drop 5% as volumes and prices fell during the

Looking ahead, Astral said the business environment was not expected to be "significantly different" during the remainder of the year.

"The global outlook remains that grains as a key cost driver for both feed and poultry production, will trade higher as soft commodity prices firm up due to tighter global soft commodities balance sheets," the company said.