US food manufacturer Fresh Del Monte recorded a fourth-quarter net loss on the back of a series of write downs related to its under-performing banana plantations in the Philippines.

The company today (1 March) recorded a US$9.6m net loss for the quarter ended 31 December against a $28.2m profit in the same period of 2009.

The company said that while net sales of bananas – which accounted for some 48% of sales – rose 3% over the quarter to US$395.3m, it recorded a gross loss of $10.7m against a $3.7m profit in the same quarter of 2009. 

Banana profits were hit by lower selling prices in Asia and Middle East regions, which was only partially offset by improved selling prices in Europe. I also suffered from higher fruit prices and unfavourable exchange rates in producing countries, with unit costs increasing 2% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, consolidated net sales fell 6.3% to $816.7m due to the company’s previously announced rationalisation of its melon programme, lower pineapple volumes due to bad weather in Central America and lower overall sales.

For the full-year, net income fell 56.7% to $62.2m, while net sales were up 1.6% to reach $3.5bn.