Chilean salmon farmer Multiexport saw first quarter earnings slashed in half as higher costs offset increased sales of Atlantic and coho salmon.

Amid fluctuating fish prices, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) dropped 51 percent year-on-year to $15.5 million (€13.9 million), while sales increased 13 percent to $154 million (€137.9 million).

Salmon producers and processors found themselves laying out extra costs to put in place hygiene measures and buy equipment to prevent contagion of coronavirus in the first quarter.

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Multiexport sold 24,209 metric tons of its own production, up from the 19,910 metric tons sold during the same period last year. Coho salmon sales climbed to 1,307 metric tons from just 161 metric tons a year earlier.

Operational earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for Atlantic salmon dipped to $0.42 (€0.38) per kilo from $1.34 (€1.20) per kilo a year earlier.

Multiexport's joint venture Entrevientos salmon processing plant built in conjunction with Blumar is scheduled to open this month.