Improved profits from Fyffes’ banana operations has helped drive an increase in half-year earnings at the Ireland-based produce firm.

The company today (5 September) reported a 50.4% leap in net profit attributed to equity shareholders to EUR14.3m (US$20.1m) for the six months to the end of June.

Operating profit increased by 62.5% to reach EUR16.5m. Group operating profit, which excludes earnings from joint ventures, intangible amortisation and profits from Fyffes’ 40% stake in property firm Balmoral, was up 24.1% at EUR15m.

“Fyffes is pleased to report a strong increase in operating profits for the first half of the year. Trading conditions were generally positive for much of the period, particularly compared to the very difficult first half last year,” chairman David McCann said.

Fyffes said operating profit from its banana business increased by EUR4.2m compared to the first half of 2010, when earnings from the division were hit by cold weather and excess supply. This year, poor weather in banana-producing countries meant volumes were lower, which pushed down prices.

The company said it faced higher fruit and shipping costs, pointing to a 40% increase in the price of bunker fuel. However, Fyffes said the impact of these costs were offset by the weakness of the US dollar.

Fyffes’ revenue increased 13.9% to EUR458.5m, in part due to the first contribution from German distributor Van Wylick, in which the company acquired a 33.3% stake in January.