It's not exactly news that these are tough times in the produce trade; both Fresh Del Monte (NYSE:FDP) and Chiquita Brands (NYSE:CQB) have been having issues for a while now. That said, it seems like Chiquita may be navigating these troubled waters a little better than Fresh Del Monte, at least relative to analyst expectations.

This wasn't an especially strong quarter for Chiquita. Though reported sales were up 20%, the acquisition of Fresh Express masked a 9% drop in organic sales. Likewise on reported gross margins, operating income and net income -- all were down, all looked better than Fresh Del Monte, but all were boosted by that acquisition. Go with adjusted operating income numbers for each company, and the performances are surprisingly similar.

Whether you look at revenue or income, bananas still drive the boat at Chiquita. To that end, revenue fell about 10% on a nearly 5% drop in volume and dicey pricing. Though pricing was up in North America and up strongly in the company's so-called "trading markets," it fell by double digits in Europe as prices adjusted to the new import laws.

While the fresh select business continues to have a rough go, with sales down 6% and operating profits down more than 25%, the fresh-cut business (which includes Fresh Express) seems to be coming along. Volume was up 9.5%, and companies like Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) still seem to have some level of interest in the concept, even though other food outlets like Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) have had dicier results.

Judging by pre-market activity, Chiquita will get some love today. And while I understand investors' relief at seeing better-than-expected performance, I wouldn't want to chase these shares. Better days almost certainly lie ahead for bananas and produce, but it'll still be an exceptionally fierce market. Likewise with the fresh-cut business - there may be more demand than people commonly think, but it'll be tough to build a brand and a sustainable business for the long haul.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).