Fresh Del Monte Produce has posted “solid” first-quarter results thanks to higher banana selling prices.

Net sales for the three months to 28 March rose 7% to US$894.9m due to strong global demand for bananas as supply dipped after poor weather in Central America.

The company reported at net income of $63.6m, compared with $51.6m in the first quarter of 2007.

“We are encouraged by the progress we made in managing the exceptionally high costs that continue to affect our business,” said Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, chairman and CEO. “During the first quarter of 2008, we demonstrated that Fresh Del Monte is able to deliver solid financial results even in a tough market.”

The company posted a loss in gross profit, recording $96.9m for 2008, compared to $99.1m for the same period last year. The decrease was due to a “negative impact” from foreign exchange and “challenges” in its melon product line.