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Fresh Del Monte's profit hurt by banana prices

NEW YORK (AP) -- Fresh Del Monte said its profit fell 34 percent in the first quarter as weaker demand led to lower banana prices in Europe.

The company, which sells a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, said sales volume for bananas rose 3 percent during the quarter. But the prices it charged worldwide fell by 1 percent to $14.97 per unit. That was despite a 2 percent increase in its own costs.

Fresh Del Monte attributed the lower demand to the weak economy.

During the quarter, gross profit for the bananas unit was $30.5 million, down from $38.8 million. Gross profit is the amount of sales left over after subtracting the cost of sales.

For its other fresh produce, which includes melons, pineapples and tomatoes, gross profit also fell to $59.3 million, down from $60.3 million.

For the quarter, Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. earned $41.1 million, or 71 cents per share. That's compared with $62.5 million, or $1.08 per share, a year ago. Analysts on average expected 95 cents per share.

Net sales rose 2 percent to $918.8 million, above the $890.8 million Wall Street expected, according to FactSet.

Shares of Fresh Del Monte were down 5 percent at $26.21.