MACQUARIE PARK, AUSTRALIA — Goodman Fielder Ltd., Australia’s largest food manufacturer, posted profit after tax for the first half of fiscal 2009 ended Dec. 31 of A$73.9 million ($48.2 million), down 22% from A$94.6 million in the first half of fiscal 2008. The company said fiscal 2009 results reflected the extreme volatility of commodity costs and changing consumer buying patterns.

Net sales rose 12% to A$1,477.6 million ($963,322,000) from A$1,316.8 million.

"Although international commodity costs are now retreating from an extended period at record high levels, little benefit was realized in the period due to time lags inherent in purchasing contracts and in clearing higher cost inventory of grains and oils," the company said. "The high commodity costs impacted margins and added A$120 million to the company’s cost base.

"The continuing severe economic conditions have caused an erosion of consumer confidence and this has resulted in a drift to cheaper alternatives such as house brand products. This has impacted margins and had a negative effect on earnings, which the company continues to combat by maintaining brand support and bringing new products to the market."

Goodman Fielder said its fresh baking business posted EBITDA during the first half of A$57.5 million ($37.5 million), down 24% from A$75.6 million in the same period of fiscal 2008. Sales in the baking business, meanwhile, eased 1% to A$493.3 million.