US rice products maker Riviana Foods has reported lower first-quarter earnings, partly due to higher domestic rice costs.

The Texas-based company reported earnings of US$5.9m for the first quarter to 28 September, compared to earnings of $6.3m in the year-ago period.

Sales increased to $104.4m from $95.2m a year earlier, while operating profit was $7.9m, compared to $8.8m a year earlier.

"During the first quarter, we focused on increased pricing to cover significantly higher rice costs resulting from a smaller US crop and reduced carryover stocks," said Joseph A. Hafner Jr, president and CEO.

"With these increases now implemented, we look forward to traditional margins and increased profitability for the remainder of fiscal 2004," he continued.

"We are pleased that our international segments are reporting strong results. Both our Kern and Pozuelo units in Central America reported higher sales volumes in spite of competitive markets and unstable economic and political conditions. We are also continuing to see improvements in sales and operating profits from our European operations as a result of improved distribution and continued efficiencies," Hafner said.