MINNEAPOLIS – For the fiscal 2012 first quarter ended Aug. 31, Cargill reported $236 million in earnings from continuing operations — a 66 percent decrease from $693 million in the same period a year ago. Last year's first quarter included an additional $190 million in earnings from Cargill's former majority investment in The Mosaic Company. First-quarter 2012 revenues rose 34 percent to $34.6 billion.

"It was a tough quarter,” said Greg Page, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer. “With results down from recent levels, we're focused on regaining our earnings momentum. Cargill is backed by a strong balance sheet, with broad resources and capabilities, including those we are gaining from a diverse group of acquisitions over the past 12 months. We're well prepared to invest and grow through innovation, our partnerships with customers and the resiliency built into our business mix."

The change in Cargill's results is due in large part to the persistently high degree of uncertainty in the global economic environment, which injected turbulence into commodity markets and limited prudent trading opportunities, Page said. The prevailing "risk-on, risk-off" dynamic in financial markets also caused capital to move in and out of commodities rapidly, which reinforced taking a disciplined approach to risk-taking.

Other factors included acquisition-related expenses and outlays related to the flooding on US inland waterways, which increased freight costs and required measures to be put in place to protect supply chains to customers.

Earnings rose in agriculture services due to crop input sales related to weather-delayed plantings and the demand for grain handling, storage and marketing services in the lead up to the North American harvest. Results in the origination and processing segment decreased from last year's solid first quarter, negatively affected by the combination of adverse weather, reductions in projected grain supplies and the weakening world economy. In the food ingredients and applications segment, the food ingredient businesses on a combined basis nearly matched last year's record-high performance. Results among the segment's animal protein businesses were weaker due in large part to higher livestock and feeding costs in North America relative to domestic demand; exports remained firm. The risk management and financial segment was hurt by the stress in financial markets caused by growing economic, fiscal and political concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. Industrial earnings softened on lower seasonal demand.

During the first quarter of fiscal 2012, Cargill completed several acquisitions including Corporacion Pipasa, a Central American poultry and meat processor, and Italian animal-feed company Raggio di Sole Mangimi.

In August, Cargill announced a binding offer to acquire Provimi, a leading global animal nutrition company, for an enterprise value of €1.5 billion.

During the second quarter, Cargill completed two previously announced joint ventures. Its beef business in Australia formed a 50-50 joint venture with Teys Bros., the country's second-largest beef processor. In Brazil, Cargill established a 50-50 joint venture in sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity with sugarcane processor Grupo USJ.