MARION, N.Y., Feb. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Seneca Foods Corporation (Nasdaq: SENEA, SENEB) is pleased to report that for the quarter ended December 26, 2009, net earnings were $18.6 million, or $1.52 per diluted share, versus $13.8 million or $1.13 per diluted share in the quarter ended December 27, 2008. Excluding a non-cash after-tax LIFO charge of $2.6 million and $11.3 million, net earnings per diluted share were $1.73 and $2.05 during the quarters ended December 26, 2009 and December 27, 2008, respectively. Sales decreased 3.5% to $447.0 million compared to the third quarter of fiscal 2009. The decrease in sales is attributable to sales volume reduction of $19.0 million partially offset by increased selling prices/improved sales mix of $2.7 million.
"We continue to be pleased by the strong earnings performance in the third quarter. While our sales were lower, predominately due to reduced sales to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), we continue to witness strength in private label and we believe consumers continue to find strong appeal in the value and nutritional benefits of canned vegetables and fruits. The decline in our USDA business was by choice as we were unwilling to sacrifice margins to win some of this business this year. Excluding sales to the USDA, our top-line would have been up by $12.2 million for the third quarter despite heavy promotional activity by the leading competitive brands," said Kraig H. Kayser, President and CEO.
Net earnings for the nine months ended December 26, 2009 increased to $42.1 million, or $3.44 per diluted share, compared to $16.1 million or $1.32 per diluted share in the prior year. Excluding a non-cash after-tax LIFO charge of $8.7 million and $27.2 million, net earnings per diluted share were $4.16 and $3.54 during the nine months periods ended December 26, 2009 and December 27, 2008, respectively. Net sales for the nine months ended December 26, 2009 increased from last year by $5.3 million, or 0.5%, to $1,000.8 million. The increase in sales is attributable to increased selling prices/improved sales mix of $48.3 million partially offset by a sales volume reduction of $43.0 million. Pre-tax results for the nine months ended December 27, 2008 included a $0.2 million gain on the sale of unused equipment and a $0.9 million plant restructuring charge primarily related to a Voluntary Workforce Reduction Program at our plant in Modesto, California.
Earnings Conference Call and WebcastThe Company will host a conference call to discuss third quarter fiscal 2010 financial results tomorrow at 1:00 PM EST. The conference call can be accessed live over the phone by dialing (866) 261-3331 (conference ID 1419212). If you are unable to listen to the live conference call, a replay will be available on Wednesday, February 3, 2010, please visit www.senecafoods.com and click on "Company Profile" and then "Investor Information". This replay will be available for one week. About Seneca Foods Corporation Seneca Foods is one of the country's largest processors of canned fruits and vegetables with manufacturing facilities located throughout the United States. Its products are sold under the Libby's, Aunt Nellie's Farm Kitchen, Stokely's, READ, and Seneca labels as well as through the private label and industrial markets. In addition, under an alliance with General Mills Operations, LLC, a successor to the Pillsbury Company and a subsidiary of General Mills, Inc., Seneca produces canned and frozen vegetables, which are sold by General Mills Operations, LLC under the Green Giant label. Seneca's common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Stock Market under the symbols "SENEA" and "SENEB". Non-GAAP Financial Measures —Net Earnings Excluding LIFO Impact, EBITDA and FIFO EBITDA Net earnings excluding LIFO, EBITDA and FIFO EBITDA are non-GAAP financial measures. The Company believes these non-GAAP financial measures provide a basis for comparison to companies that do not use LIFO and to periods prior to 2008 when the company did not use LIFO and enhances the understanding of the company's operating performance. The Company does not intend for this information to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for other measures prepared in accordance with GAAP.