Astarta revealed that its sugar revenues rose 4%, year on year, to E78m in the first half of 2011 – lagging a 13% rise in Ukrainian prices of the sweetener.
However, the shortfall was down to a decline in sales volumes, of 12%, rather than a bad call on prices, as the company withheld sugar in the hope of tapping higher prices later on.
Group sugar inventories ended the quarter 19% higher than a year before, "providing good potential to benefit from a favourable pricing environment in the summer months, when demand for sugar from soft drink producers is higher", said Astarta, whose major customers comprise confectionery and drinks makers.
The gamble appears to have paid off, to judge by raw sugar futures which, in New York, rose 1.5% to 31.25 cents a pound on Tuesday, for the near-term October contract.
New York’s spot sugar contract averaged about 27.50 cents a pound in the first half of the year.
The comments came as the group unveiled a 39% rise to E56.7m in half-year earnings on revenues up 16.9% at E116.1m.
The revenue increase was spearheaded by a 72% jump, to E27m, in takings from crop sales, on higher volumes and prices, with Astarta also holding some sales of grains until late in the half, allowing them to benefit from "optimal prices" after the government lifted export restrictions.
Ukraine from May began lifting export quotas imposed after a drought-sapped harvest last year, although a levy regime imposed as a replacement has proved controversial, and been blamed for a slide in shipments last month.
Astarta’s revenues from its dairy operations grew 35% to E11m, boosted by 20% expansion to 13,000 head in herd numbers, besides an increase in productivity.
Astarta shares, which are listed in Warsaw, closed up 2.6% at 78.00 zloty.