Spanish food group Ebro Puleva has reported a near 20% rise in 2004 net profit to €120.9m (US$155.4m), boosted by higher rice sales.

Ebro's rice division performed strongly, helped by good sales of microwave-ready rice products, reported Reuters. In September, the company completed its acquisition of US rice company Riviana Foods. The division was also boosted by EU rules.

"The new (EU) regulation which controls rice has also allowed a development in the prices of raw materials, which has helped expand consumption of this product and allowed our group to increase its exports," the company was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Ebro's revenues rose 5.9% to €2.12bn, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 14.6% to €298.6m. Revenues from the company's rice division jumped 41% to €604m.