US poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride has reported a profit for the fiscal fourth quarter, compared to a year-earlier loss, partly due to increased exports.

The Pittsburg, Texas-based company posted earnings of US$25.1m, or 61 cents a share, for the fourth quarter to 27 September, compared to a loss of $3.2m, or 8 cents a share, a year earlier. The year-ago result had been impacted by losses related to an outbreak of avian influenza in its Virginia turkey operations, reported Reuters.

Pilgrim’s Pride also reported record net sales for the fourth quarter of $709.5m, compared with net sales of $639.8m for the same period last year.

“Our very successful fourth quarter and fiscal year performance reflects an improvement in the pricing environment for chicken and better operating efficiencies,” said O B Goolsby, president and chief operating officer of Pilgrim’s Pride.

“Over the last several months, lower domestic supplies of meat proteins, the lifting of recent export restrictions and increased consumer demand for chicken products have resulted in higher chicken prices and increased operating margins. We expect these favorable trends to continue positively impacting prices and margins as we enter fiscal 2004.

“While we are disappointed by the results posted by our turkey business this quarter, we remain committed to improving the product mix, sales volume and profitability of this business and are taking a number of steps that we believe will allow us to achieve this goal,” Goolsby added.

For fiscal 2003, the company reported net income of $56.0m, or $1.36 per share, compared with net income of $14.3m, or $0.35 per share, in the prior fiscal year. Annual net sales for fiscal 2003 were $2.6bn, compared with $2.5bn for the prior year.