Perkins hit by big crop in Europe

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A BUMPER crop of fresh fruit and vegetables led to a 9 per cent fall in taxable profits at Perkins Foods, the food distributor.

The company, which specialises in importing fresh produce from Australasia and South Africa, was hit by the biggest crop in Europe in more than 50 years.

Prices on the Continent fell sharply, pushing pre-tax profits down last year from pounds 24.2m to pounds 22.1m despite a one-third jump in sales to pounds 354m.

Operating profits from the fresh produce division slipped from pounds 7.6m to pounds 6.7m.

However, the company believes that the unusually benign weather conditions that led to bumper crops are unlikely this year. Foreign growers are also expected to produce less.

Perkins' frozen foods business lifted profits from pounds 10.7m to pounds 14.2m, including a pounds 1.2m fire insurance claim.

Although underlying sales volumes at the division jumped 17 per cent, profit margins were below expectations.

Earnings fell 18 per cent to 9.7p but the year's total dividend is up 2 per cent to 4.4p.