Fruit and veg group Total Produce warns on profits

Company reports strong retail demand as food service business diminishes amid restrictions

Total Produce said demand from the food service sector has fallen but demand from retailers had remained “robust. Photograph:  Ariana Drehsler/AFP via Getty Images

Total Produce said demand from the food service sector has fallen but demand from retailers had remained “robust. Photograph: Ariana Drehsler/AFP via Getty Images

 

Total Produce, the fruit and vegetable producer chaired by Carl McCann, has become the latest listed business to delay its planned shareholder meeting as it warned that full-year earnings, though expected to be “satisfactory” were now likely to be lower than in 2019.

In a Covid-19 update, the company said the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was having an increasingly significant impact on the global economy in the three weeks since it published its full year results. At that time, Mr McCann had said the outbreak was not expected to have any material impact on Total Produce’s business, though he conceded it was too early to form a “definitive view”,

However, the company said on Friday that its supply chains were functioning “adequately” and remained open in all its markets.

“The group recognises its vital role in continuing to supply essential foodstuffs in response to the pandemic,” the company said in a statement.

Demand from the food service sector has fallen following the closure of fast-food restaurants and suppliers, but Total Produce said demand from retailers had remained “robust as consumer buying patterns shift”.

The company said it was continuing to trade satisfactorily, “considering the challenging economic environment”. It said it was still too early to predict the full impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Total Produce is in a strong financial position and its cashflow also remains strong,” the company said. “The group has significant cash and substantial undrawn credit lines. The group is operating comfortably within its covenants.”

At the start of the month, the company announced results for 2019, showing a 22 per cent rise in sales and a 28 per cent rise in profit. The figures included, for the first time, a full year contribution from its acquisition of a 45 per cent share in Dole Foods, one of the world’s largest fresh produce companies.

The AGM, which had been scheduled for May 15th, will now be held on August 28th. A decision to approve the proposed final dividend of 2.5 cent a share will be taken at that time.