Maple Leaf sees higher Asia pork demand after quarterly sales jumps 13%

(Reuters) - Maple Leaf Foods Inc MFI.TO on Wednesday said it expects higher pork demand from Asia in the second quarter, while reporting a 12.8% jump in first-quarter sales due to consumers stockpiling food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company had a bump in sales in the quarter from restrictions on movement put in place to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus, which prompted consumers to buy more essential supplies such as meat, tissues and disinfectant products.

The company’s first-quarter sales rose to C$1.02 billion from C$907.1 million, even as it reported a loss because of higher costs.

Sales in Maple Leaf’s meat protein group unit, which sells value-added fresh pork and poultry products, jumped 12.7% to C$981.4 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

The Schneiders- and Mina-branded meat producer said it would record more charges of up to C$20 million in the current quarter due to increased labor, personal protective equipment, sanitation and other expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also projected weakness in the company’s food service business even as it expected more traction in its plant protein business.

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods Inc TSN.N has been forced to temporarily close its pork processing plants, including its largest in the United States, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, further tightening meat supplies after other major slaughterhouse shutdowns.

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Devika Syamnath