US egg processor Cal-Maine Foods has reported higher sales and profits for the first nine months of its financial year.

The company did, however, report a fall in sales volumes for the third quarter of the period.

For the nine months to 27 February, net income rose to US$316.4m compared with US$115.1m. Operating income increased to US$472m, against $169m a year earlier.

Cal-Maine’s sales jumped almost 37% to US$1.61bn on the back of record selling prices for eggs, as supplies were dented by avian influenza outbreaks earlier in the company’s financial year.

In the third quarter, Cal-Maine saw net sales increase 2.8% to US$449.8m but said volumes slid 1.9%.

“Our industry continues to deal with the reduced hen supply and other market disruptions caused by the avian influenza outbreaks in the upper Midwestern United States during the spring of 2015. While the supply has been steadily moving back up, the current national laying hen flock recently reported by the USDA is still approximately 3.0% lower than it was a year ago. Industry-wide, retail demand trends for shell eggs have been favourable in spite of the supply disruptions; however, egg prices have been negatively affected by increased egg supplies due to demand erosion for egg products, increased egg imports and reduced egg exports. Egg inventories have continued to build, and we expect market prices will remain volatile until the industry has more clarity on future supply levels,” chairman, president and CEO Dolph Baker said.

“Industry-wide, retail demand trends for shell eggs have been favourable in spite of the supply disruptions; however, egg prices have been negatively affected by increased egg supplies due to demand erosion for egg products, increased egg imports and reduced egg exports. Egg inventories have continued to build, and we expect market prices will remain volatile until the industry has more clarity on future supply levels,” said Dolph Baker, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cal-Maine Foods.

Reflecting on Cal-Maine’s sales performance, Baker “specialty eggs” have been “a key driver of our growth throughout this fiscal year”

“Specialty egg sales accounted for 23.6% of the dozens of shell eggs sold and 31% of total shell egg sales revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2016, compared with 20.3% of the dozens of shell eggs sold and 26.9 percent of total shell egg sales revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2015,” Baker said.

“We continue to pursue additional opportunities to market and sell specialty eggs, especially in light of changing demand trends. As the food service industry, restaurant chains and major retailers are increasingly demanding more cage-free eggs in response to market forces, we are working with our customers to facilitate a smooth transition to meet this demand. We believe Cal-Maine Foods is well positioned to respond to dynamic market conditions and future demand trends.”

For the third quarter of fiscal 2016, Cal-Maine Foods will pay a cash dividend of approximately $0.441 per share to holders of its common and Class A common stock.

Shares in Cal-Maine closed up 8.76% yesterday at US$54.51.The stock has risen over 17% so far this year.