US meat processor Tyson Foods has reported a rise in quarterly earnings, helped by higher beef prices and strong beef sales.

Tyson posted earnings of US$147m, or 42 cents a share, for the fourth quarter to 27 September, compared to $84m, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had been expecting earnings of 37 cents a share on average, reported Reuters.

The company, which is the largest US meat processor, forecast fiscal 2004 earnings of between 90 cents and $1.20 per share, compared to 96 cents a share for fiscal 2003.

Beef prices rose after the US banned beef and cattle imports from Canada after a single case of BSE, or mad cow disease, was discovered there in May.

Tyson said sales at its beef unit were up 24.2% to $3.28bn, with average sale prices rising 22.5% and sales volume rising 1.4%.

Tyson's company revenues for the quarter were $6.6bn, compared to $5.8bn a year earlier.