Dole bananas

Itochu's Dole business is focusing on flagship items like bananas

Japanese general trading house Itochu's Dole business has returned to profit this fiscal year after reporting a 16.9bn yen net loss a year ago, reports Nikkei Asian Review.

The Dole business bounced back to 8.3bn yen (US$73m) in net profit for the year ended March 2017, thanks partly to cost reductions due to a drastic reorganisation, the paper said.

For the next fiscal year the company projects a 9.7bn yen net profit. Itsgoal is to become the biggest fruit-producing and processing company in Asia, Itochu told the publication.

Itochu bought part of US fruit giant Dole Food in 2013 for some 135bn yen (US$1.68bn).After the purchase, the company's initial goal was to log 10bn yen in net profit. But instead the company posted a loss of 16.9bn yen for fiscal 2015.

Lower banana yields stemming from adverse weather conditions in the Philippines, the main banana supplier, was mainly to blame.

In a bid to return to profitability, last October Itochu pulled out of selling non-lucrative products - vegetables, citrus fruits and mangoes - withdrawing them from store shelves.

Instead, the company is channeling most of its resources into sales of its flagship bananas and other products, Nikkei said.

Itochu president Masahiro Okafuji is credited with significantly lifting the earnings of Itochu's entire operations by withdrawing from unprofitable businesses, while making aggressive investments, the report said.