Dow Jones – Smithfield Foods Inc.’s fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 7.6% as the pork processor and hog producer continued to benefit from higher pricing and strong export demand.

The largest U.S. pork producer has posted improved earnings over the past year as it has been able to successfully pass on higher feed costs.

Smithfield’s April closure of an Iowa processing plant tightened industry supplies.  Strong exports, particularly to Asia, also have boosted demand.

President and Chief Executive C. Larry Pope said the company is aiming for 3% sales volume growth in its packaged meats business for the current fiscal year and expects fresh pork and hog production industry trends to continue.  Smithfield also expects export demand will remain robust, though commodities costs will remain a challenge, Smith said.

For the quarter ended July 31, Smithfield reported a profit of $82.1 million, or 49 cents a share, up from $76.3 million, or 46 cents a share, a year earlier.  Excluding a litigation-related charge and other items, earnings were 69 cents.  Revenue increased 6.7% to $3.09 billion.