The poultry group Pilgrim’s Pride has posted a 47% fall in first-quarter net income from US$48.5m, or $0.73 per share, to $25.7m, or $0.39 a share. The company said earnings for the quarter had been hit by a weaker performance from its Mexican operations and higher fuel costs.

Sales for the quarter to the end of December fell marginally to $1.34bn, from $1.37bn in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year.

“We delivered a solid performance in the first quarter, resulting in our second best first fiscal quarter in our company’s public history dating back to 1986,” said O.B. Goolsby, the company’s president and CEO. “This quarter reflected continued growth in our prepared food business and stable input costs as feed ingredient costs have remained in prior year ranges. Our Mexico operations suffered as the traditional bump we see during the Christmas holiday season did not live up to typical patterns. Also, higher energy related costs and lower sales prices, primarily for chicken leg quarters in our US operations, negatively impacted our performance.”

Pilgrim’s Pride has forecast earnings of between $0.25 and $0.35 per share for the second quarter, and $2 to $2.50 a share for the 2006 fiscal year. The company’s forecasts fall below previous analysts’ forecasts of around $0.55 cents a share for the second quarter and $2.72 a share for the full year.