Capespan has delivered its best-ever set of results - but warned that its 2009 profits were already coming under pressure as a result of the global slowdown.

The South African producer, which exports a wide range of fruit to UK supermarkets, this week reported operating profits had risen 70% to £12.6m during 2008, on turnover up 13% to £181m over the same year.

The results represented the best figures in its 10-year history it said, adding that a significant rise in profits in its fruit and logistics divisions had been behind the increase.

In the fruit division, better export figures and the inclusion of operating income from farm management activities for the first time helped boost the numbers, while port terminals increased citrus volumes and containers

handled to push up the numbers in the logistics operation.

Higher pricing at retail and the devaluation of the rand against major currencies also increased profitability, the company added. This had enabled it to ­increase payments to its South African suppliers by between 23% and 46%, ­depending on the fruit variety, it said.

However Capespan also warned that the global outlook would affect its figures for 2009. "The liquidity and credit crises will influence our markets and customers in different ways and the company will have to remain flexible and adjust to changing demand patterns and pricing structures," said MD Neil Oosthuizen.

The "exceptional results in 2008 will not be exceeded" in 2009, he added.

Capespan also announced that it had become the first South African exporter to sign a marketing licence agreement with apple specialist Kiku to allow it to sell Fuji apples. It said it would look to plant at least 100ha of the premium variety over the coming five years.

Production of the variety would allow its growers to achieve higher returns, it said, adding that a meeting would be held soon to

establish a marketing