Dole Food Company, the world's largest producer and marketer of fruit, vegetables and flowers, and marketer of a growing line of packaged foods, announced yesterday [Thursday] that its Q1 earnings from continuing operations were US$56.3m, 99 cents/share, compared with US$29.5m, 53 cents/share, for the Q1 2001.

Earnings before interest and taxes improved significantly to US$97.3m in the Q1 2002, from US$62.9m for the Q1 of 2001. EBIT from operations in the company's fresh fruit segment increased due to the continuing trend of improved earnings in banana operations as a result of global cost cutting activities and a pricing recovery in Europe and Asia, partially offset by weaker foreign currency exchange rates for the yen and the euro as well as lower volumes sold into Europe and Asia.

Earnings from operations in the company's fresh vegetables segment increased significantly due to very high commodity vegetables pricing, primarily resulting from an industry-wide supply shortage of lettuce. Operating results from the company's packaged foods segment increased due to lower production costs and higher sales volumes for packaged pineapple products in addition to the continued success of Dole's FRUIT BOWLS® and FRUIT-N-GEL BOWLS(TM) products. EBIT in the company's fresh-cut flowers segment was essentially flat as cost reduction programs provided savings that offset lower pricing and volumes.

Lawrence A. Kern, president and COO, stated: "We are exceptionally pleased with the solid operating results for the quarter. Our core businesses are benefiting from more stable markets and are yielding enhanced profitability from our cost savings and efficiency improvement programmes."

Revenues for the Q1 2002 totalled US$1.06bn compared with US$1.03bn year on year. Cash flow from operations (EBITDA) in the Q1 2002 totalled US$119.2m compared with US$91.5m for the same quarter of 2001. Interest expense decreased 21% from US$18.5m for the Q1 2001 to US$14.5m for the Q1 2002 mainly due to lower levels of debt.