US poultry producer and processor Sanderson Farms has posted a sharp rise in quarterly net income helped by higher market prices for all poultry products.

The Laurel, Missouri-based company reported net income of US$20.5m, for the fourth quarter to 31 October, compared to net income of $6.5m a year earlier.

Net sales for the quarter rose to $254.7m from $201.0m in the year-ago period.

For the full year, the company posted net income of $54.1m, compared with $28.8m in the previous year. Net sales were $872.2m, a 17.3% increase compared to $743.7m a year earlier.

“Sanderson Farms continued to demonstrate solid execution in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003, capping off an outstanding year for the Company,” said Joe F Sanderson Jr, president and chief executive officer.

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“Earnings for both our fourth quarter and fiscal year ended 31 October 2003, set records and reflect the continued overall improvement in the chicken market compared with conditions a year ago,” he added.

Looking ahead, Sanderson said the company hoped to build on this momentum in 2004.