Reuters — Meat packer Maple Leaf Foods posted a smaller-than-expected quarterly profit as lower prices and a temporary interruption in supplies hurt sales of its pork products, sending its shares to their lowest in nearly two years.
The company, one of Canada’s biggest pork processors, said that processed fresh pork sales were affected by a transitory reduction in hog supply from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in 2017.
One of the company’s barns in Manitoba, Canada’s biggest piglet-producing province, was among confirmed cases of PEDv in June last year.
PEDv, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration in hogs and is usually deadly in young piglets, poses no threat to humans, according to the Canadian Swine Health Board.
The Toronto-based company said pork market conditions in the first quarter were materially below prior year, offsetting strong performance in its other segments.
Maple Leaf’s sales rose about 0.8 per cent to $817.5 million, due to its prepared meats businesses, which also benefited from recent acquisitions.
The company has been keen on expanding in the U.S., seeing growth opportunities in humanely produced meat and alternative protein sources, and acquired two U.S. based companies last year.
Maple Leaf last month made an investment in Entomo Farms, an Ontario-based insect protein supplier billed as North America’s largest human-grade edible insect farm.
Maple Leaf’s first-quarter net earnings were $27.9 million, or 22 cents per share, compared with $30.1 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the company earned 29 cents per share, missing analysts’ average estimate of 34 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
— Reporting for Reuters by Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal.