Operating profits at Farmfoods dropped 13% to £10.1m in 2019 amid fierce competition, according to newly filed full-year accounts.

However, profit before interest and tax shot up 80% to £22.6m thanks to an £11.8m gain on disposal of fixed assets.

Profit before tax in the year to 28 December was up 83% to £22.1m.

The frozen food specialist’s sales rose marginally, by 0.7% to £711.2m.

The company bought 100,000 ordinary shares from director Eric Herd for £8.5m in the period, representing 11.4% of issued share capital. The shares were subsequently cancelled.

The accounts do not say whether Farmfoods grew or shrunk its estate of over 300 stores, but reveal the average retail staff number remained flat at 3,724, just four more than in 2018.

The group invested £14m in freehold property and assets in the course of construction, compared with £4.9m in 2018.

Farmfoods stores remained open during lockdown and the group was monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on the business.

“The group’s priorities in dealing with the exceptional challenges posed by Covid-19 are to ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues, support our suppliers and maintain the availability of food,” the accounts said.

“The group are keeping abreast of guidance as it evolves and ensuring we are supporting employees and authorities where we can and following all relevant guidance.

“The directors have considered the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and are of the view that, given the nature of the business, its impact will be limited.”