LAUREL, Miss. – Sanderson Farms, Inc.'s earnings jumped in the fourth quarter on higher prices for poultry and declining prices for grain.

For the fourth quarter ended Oct. 31, the company reported net income of $93.1 million, or $4.04 per share, compared to net income of $45.3 million, or $1.97 per share. Net sales for the quarter advanced to $760 million compared to $727.1 for the year-ago quarter.

Results for fiscal 2014 were $2.775 billion in net sales for the year compared with $2.683 billion for fiscal 2013. Net income for the year totaled $249.0 million, or $10.80 per share, compared to net income of $130.6 million, or $5.68 per share, for 2013.

"The fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 marked a strong finish to a successful year for Sanderson Farms,” said Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., chairman and CEO. "We reported record annual sales of $2.775 billion, a 3.4 percent increase over fiscal 2013. While poultry markets improved only slightly compared to fiscal 2013, grain prices, especially corn prices, were significantly lower during the year when compared to fiscal 2013. For the year, we sold 3.045 billion pounds of dressed poultry, another record, compared with 3.031 billion pounds in fiscal 2013.”

Sanderson said overall prices for poultry prices were higher during the fourth quarter compared to prices a year ago. The Georgia dock price for whole chickens was higher by 7.1 percent during the fourth quarter, and 5.7 percent higher for fiscal 2014.

Strong demand for the company's retail chill pack product kept the Georgia Dock prices for whole birds in record territory during the fiscal year. Prices for boneless breast meat were an average 15.8 percent higher in the fourth quarter.

Cash prices for corn and soybean meal dropped 23.2 percent and 10.5 percent respectively during the quarter. Total feed costs in broiler flocks processed declined 18 percent compared to fiscal 2013.

“We are pleased that our profitability during fiscal 2014 allowed us to fund our planned expansion in Palestine, Texas, further reduce outstanding debt, strengthen our balance sheet, reward our shareholders with a special dividend and increase our regular quarterly dividend rate,” Sanderson said. “We are well positioned to continue our growth strategy as we begin operations at our new poultry complex in Palestine, Texas, in February 2015. The pounds produced in Palestine, at full production, will represent a 16 percent increase in our capacity.”

Sanderson added that the company's strong balance sheet is supportive of the company growth strategy.

“As of Oct. 31, 2014, our balance sheet reflected $1.111 billion in assets, stockholders’ equity of $897.9 million and net working capital of $363.1 million,” Sanderson said. “Our total long-term debt at year-end was $10 million. A strong balance sheet is an important advantage in our industry and provides us with the financial strength to not only support our growth strategy, but also to manage our operations through cycles that characterize our industry.”