Currency effects had a positive impact on Dutch food ingredients group CSM’s first-quarter results as the company today (21 April) posted a 2.9% growth in sales.

Sales reached EUR636.1m (US$825.7m) compared to EUR618.2m in the same period of 2008. The company said that currency effects, on balance, had a positive impact of EUR32.7m, due to the stronger US dollar being mitigated by the weaker sterling.

Despite this, EBITA dropped to EUR20.1m from EUR32.5m in the 2008 quarter. The figure was impacted by a decline in volumes of 4.2%, a consequence of the current negative economic climate.

CSM said “continuing actions” to reduce cost and working capital will provide “increasing support” to results in the remainder of the year.

Volumes in bakery supplies were 3.8% lower than in the previous quarter of 2008. Sales were lower in all segments of the business, with the more luxury pastry items particularly affected.

The company’s US-based bakery organization Brill exceeded expectations however, profiting from “increased efficiencies”, and the company’s German bakery business succeeded in maintaining volumes “despite the difficult economic conditions”, the company said.

“In our annual year results statement we said to expect the economic climate to remain unchanged compared with the fourth quarter of 2008. This became a reality and impacted CSM with lower volumes in the first quarter,” Gerard Hoetmer, CEO of CSM said.

“We do not see an improvement in the economic climate yet but we do expect our measures to have an increasing effect through the second quarter, bringing EBITA of the second quarter closer to that of last year’s second quarter,” Hoetmer said.