Imperial Sugar has reported a second-quarter profit thanks largely to the contribution of a refinery in Louisiana run by a venture between the US sugar processor, Cargill and farming co-op Sugar Growers and Refiners.

The company yesterday (10 May) reported net income of US$4.2m for the three months to the end of March, the firm's second quarter. The result compared to a net loss of $33.3m in the second quarter of last year.

Imperial Sugar said the second-quarter profit included a $3.6m pre-tax gain from the contribution of the refinery in Gramercy, Louisiana, to the Louisiana Sugar Refining venture. Imperial Sugar owns one third of the venture, which took control of the new refinery at the beginning of the year.

During the second quarter, Imperial Sugar's net sales reached $192.2m, down from $208.9m in the corresponding last year.

Imperial Sugar said the fall in quarterly sales were a result of the loss of direct sales volumes from the Gramercy refinery.

The processor, however, said it benefited from a 20% increase in domestic sugar prices compared to the second quarter of fiscal 2010.

"We are pleased with the progress made in a number of areas during the second quarter," said president and CEO John Sheptor. "We achieved sales price increases during the second quarter and successfully managed raw costs in a volatile price environment, so as to expand margins significantly."

He added: "After a challenging re-start early in the quarter, LSR's operation of the existing Gramercy refinery is providing a steady flow of bulk sugar for our grocery packaging operation."

For the first half of the company's financial year, Imperial Sugar made a net loss of $4.8m, compared to net income of $144.9m a year ago. In the first half of that year, Imperial had $278.5m of pre-tax gains linked to the settlement of insurance claims related to the 2008 explosion at the Port Wentworth refinery.

First-half net sales, meanwhile, reached $419.6m, compared to $382.6m a year ago, thanks to high domestic sugar prices.