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.

“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.