Dutch food group Nutreco has said its first-half operating profit almost halved, hit by weak demand for animal feeds.

Operating profit for the six-month period dropped to EUR41.6m (US$58.5m) from EUR82.3m in the comparable period of 2008.

Revenue also decreased, dropping 8.5% to EUR2.13bn as a result of 7% lower volumes.

Profit after tax dropped to EUR13.7m from EUR48.8m in the same period of the previous year.

Wout Dekker, Nutreco CEO, said: "The Nutreco performance in the first half year is in line with our outlook given in the first-quarter trading update. Our pre-mix and feed specialties business performed well and the fundamentals in the fish feed business are good, although demand for fish feed in Chile is reduced as a consequence of the ISA virus in salmon farming."

The company said it expects the business to return to profitability in the second half and produce "marginal profitability" for 2009.

"The second half year results will be more in line with the second half of 2008," Dekker said.