(Aug. 10) Like its publicly traded rivals, Dole Food Co. Inc. said material and shipping costs were cutting into its bottom line in its second quarter.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Aug. 1, Westlake Village, Calif.-based Dole reported revenues of $1.6 billion for the quarter that ended June 17, or 23% higher than the $1.3 billion from the same period in 2005.

“Overall, the North American banana market did well, and we did put more bananas into Europe,” said Richard Dahl, Dole’s president and chief operating officer. “We expected to get more banana volume into Europe, and we did. Others cut back in volumes.”

“Some people were harder hit with supply constraints,” he said. “Also, in the second quarter itself, commodity vegetable prices rebounded, so that obviously was an assist to the revenue stream. And the packaged food business has done well.”

Nevertheless, Dole, the largest fresh-produce distributor in the U.S., reported operating income of $72.7 million, compared with $113.4 million a year earlier. The company said higher production and shipping costs, as well as unfavorable currency exchange rates, were primary culprits.

Dole, unlike its chief rivals Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., is privately held, but that doesn’t necessarily give Dole any more maneuverability in dealing with higher costs, Dahl said.

“We have competitors, we have customers, we have many of the same stakeholders as the other people, and, therefore, when you get into situations of high commodity costs like paper and fruit and cost of fuel, you have the same pressures everybody else has,” Dahl said.

Net income at Dole was $18.5 million for the second quarter, compared with $32.3 million a year earlier, a drop of 43%.

In the first half of 2006, Dole reported sales of $2.99 billion, 1% higher than the $2.97 billion tally a year ago. Operating income of $95.7 million was less than half the $214.5 million at the same point a year ago.

All four of Dole’s segments reported lower operating income for the first half of 2006, which the company said was also related to higher production and shipping costs. Net income for the first half of 2006 was $12.6 million, compared with $49.5 million a year earlier.

Higher sales of bananas in North America and Europe and higher pineapple volumes worldwide prompted the company’s 23% revenue increase in the quarter, Dole said.

Higher banana volumes in Europe were a result of the European Union’s new tariff-only regime of 176 euros —$226.05 U.S., as of Aug. 9 — that took effect Jan. 1. The new regime ended volume restrictions on Latin American fruit.