( Fresh Del Monte )

Fueled by strong sales from the company’s Mann Packing business, Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. said net sales increased in the first quarter of 2019.

The company reported net sales for the first quarter of 2019 were $1.15 billion, compared with $1.11 billion in the first quarter of 2018. Sales were up in the company’s fresh and value-added business segment, but that was countered in part by lower net sales of bananas and unfavorable exchange rates in Europe and Asia, according to a news release.

The company said gross profit for the first quarter of 2019 was $93.3 million, compared with $106.5 million in the first quarter a year ago. The release said the decline in gross profit was linked to lower profits in the company’s banana segment, mostly the result of higher banana supplies across the markets. That was partially offset by increased profitability in the company’s fresh and value-added business.

“The performance-improving initiatives we put in place in 2018 to rationalize our non-tropical, tomato and melon operations delivered margin improvements during the first quarter of 2019,” Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, chairman and CEO, said in the release. “The unfavorable weather and logistical challenges of 2018 have not had an impact and we appear to be tracking towards a normal performance for these two factors for the first half of 2019.”

Headwinds for the company, he said, include higher costs in the fresh and value-added segment.

“We continue to focus on all areas of our operations to ensure that we have the right cost structure to support our diverse product line and our vertically-integrated platform, and to expand our market reach through new and existing distribution channels to promote our global growth and brand awareness,” Abu-Ghazaleh said in the release.