China Resources Enterprise, the brewing-to-retail group, has reported a nine-month loss from its food division, as start-up costs from its rice business offset higher sales.

The company booked a HK$91m (US$11.7m) loss from food in the nine months to the end of September, down from a profit HK$101m a year earlier.

The food division, CRE's third largest by sales behind retail and beer, saw turnover jump 51.3% to HK$12.37bn.

CRE said its rice operation had started to establish a nationwide presence and enjoyed "rapid" sales growth through acquisitions and expanding into new markets.

In Hong Kong, the food division's operations felt the impact of depressed pig prices and the high level of feed costs.

The group's meat division in China also enjoyed higher sales after expanding its retail and wholesale units.

"Looking ahead, the group's food division will continue to focus on the domestic market and will enhance its operational efficiency to accommodate its development strategy. Through promotion and marketing of the Ng Fung [rice] brand, expansion into new markets and mergers and acquisitions, the group will further enhance the scale of its domestic business and profitability of the division."

At a group level, CRE booked net profit of HK$858m, down sharply from the HK$1.94bn it generated in the first nine months of 2013. In the third quarter, CRE made a loss of HK$71m - compared to a profit of HK$920m a year earlier - due to costs from combining its retail business with Tesco's local outlets after a deal announced last year.

Turnover was up 16.56% at HK$131.06bn.