US fresh produce firm Fresh Del Monte has reported net income of $5.7m for the third quarter to 30 September, compared with $13.7m in the third quarter of 2004.

Third quarter net income results include strong sales performance across major product lines that were impacted by increased fruit production and transportation costs and greater spending in selling, promotions and advertising to support the company’s prepared food business.

Fresh Del Monte’s third quarter 2005 net sales increased to $740.5m, compared with $610.4m in the same period last year. The growth in net sales was due primarily to contributions from the company’s prepared food business, along with significantly higher banana selling prices in Europe and Asia, and expanding sales of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables in North America and Europe.

“We are gratified that we have been able to deliver better results during a quarter in which we faced a number of challenges, including significantly higher global fuel prices, a sluggish banana market in North America, and major storms that temporarily curtailed our operations across the southern states in the US and in Central America,” said Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, Fresh Del Monte’s chairman and chief executive officer.

“We are working aggressively to accelerate the growth of our prepared food business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and we are confident about our future prospects in this arena. In the meantime, we continue to focus sharply on implementing our proven operating strategies, while maintaining an unrelenting commitment to increasing shareholder value over the long-term,” he added.

Fresh Del Monte Produce also reaffirmed its 2005 earnings guidance in the range of $2.30 to $2.40 per diluted share.