Strong retail demand for its meat products over the festive period offset UK pig prices trotting 9% lower at the end of December 2020 than they were at the same stage last year.
The FTSE 250-listed group said this reflected “robust” trading in the quarter that was ahead of the same period in 2019, thanks to its “well-executed Christmas plan, supported by exemplary service levels to our customers and tight cost control”.
Demand was so strong in the UK that exports to the Far East were lower than the same quarter a year ago.
Experts were also hit by a temporary self-suspension of the group’s China export licences for its Northern Ireland and Norfolk primary processing facilities after a number of staff tested positive for coronavirus, though the Norfolk plant continued operating.
To try and minimise the effects of Brexit, the group said it is recruiting more permanent team members and providing support to European colleagues who want to obtain UK settled status, while also saying it “successfully implemented mitigating action plans” to minimise costs and supply chain disruption.
Looking to the final quarter of the group’s financial year to March 31, 2021, the Eye poultry facility in Suffolk is expected to see capacity lift from 1.1m to 1.4m birds per week, while a new Cooked bacon facility in Hull is due to begin commercial production in the first quarter of the next financial year.
The shares were up 3% to 3,530p in early trading on Thursday.