SUGAR LAND, TEXAS — The Imperial Sugar Co. narrowed its loss in the third quarter as the company continued to increase production at its Port Wentworth, Ga., refinery. The loss in the quarter ended June 30 totaled $5,687,000, which compared with a loss of $10,481,000 in the same period a year ago. Net sales, meanwhile, rose 83% to $260,978,000 from $142,291,000.

“Production at the Port Wentworth refinery and resulting sales volumes continued to increase during the quarter but more work is needed to achieve capacity operations,” said John Sheptor, president and chief executive officer of Imperial Sugar. “Equipment and process improvements led to better production volumes in the quarter, but the average production rate remains below our potential. To meet customer requirements, refining days were added, which increased the cost of production and reduced margin. As production rate is further increased, variable costs such as labor, maintenance and energy are expected to improve.”

Imperial Sugar said Port Wentworth’s total production was in excess of 90% of normal operating periods during the third quarter.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2010 Imperial Sugar posted income of $139,165,000, equal to $11.79 per share on the common stock. This compared with a loss of $$22,995,000 in the same period of fiscal 2009. Sales for the nine months were $643,620,000, up sharply from $375,241,000.

“Improving Port Wentworth operations remains our priority,” Mr. Sheptor said. “Further equipment and process improvements are under way that should raise throughput. A higher production rate will dilute fixed costs and require less unit variable inputs. Tight industry supply conditions are leading to spot sales opportunities, and any added production above current sales commitments can be sold at attractive prices. Our target is to return margins to more normal levels through these efforts.”