US poultry processor Sanderson Farms has lowered its earnings outlook for fiscal 2004 due to lower poultry prices in its fourth quarter.

The company said that, based on preliminary information and estimates, it expects earnings for the fiscal year ending 31 October 2004 to be in the range of US$4.50 to $4.60 per share. This compares to its previously issued outlook of $4.85 to $5.25 per share for fiscal 2004.

"Our revised earnings expectations for fiscal 2004 primarily reflect the decline in poultry prices that we have experienced during our fourth fiscal quarter," said chairman and chief executive Joe Sanderson Jr.

"While market prices historically soften during the fall, the decline has been more substantial than we originally projected, particularly for boneless breast meat. Additionally, as we previously announced, our profitability during the last quarter of the fiscal year was affected by higher grain prices," he added.

However, the company said its full-year sales would exceed $1bn, beating its previous record of $872m, set last year.

Sanderson Farms said it was optimistic about fiscal 2005: "We believe that poultry prices have bottomed out and we remain confident that strong consumer demand for chicken and further growth in exports will contribute to a favourable market environment."