US agribusiness giant Cargill has reported a 38% rise in earnings for the fourth quarter ended 31 May.

Earnings for the quarter were reported at US$195m, up from $141m in the year-ago period.

The company's meat businesses strengthened in the fourth quarter after being hurt by the trade disruption caused by the discovery of a single case of BSE in the US and the outbreak of avian influenza in Asia. Improving demand for fertiliser bolstered performance in phosphate production in the fourth quarter, the company said.

Net earnings for fiscal 2004 were $1.33bn, up from $1.29bn in 2003. Earnings from continuing operations were a record $1.28bn for the year, an increase of 24% from $1.03bn a year ago.

Revenues for the full year rose 16% to $62.9bn, said Cargill, while cash flow from continuing operations increased 18% to $3bn.

Chairman and chief executive Warren Staley said Cargill's operating earnings for the full year were broad based, with significant contributions from its food ingredient, grain and oilseeds, animal nutrition, risk management and financial businesses. "More than half of our business units generated higher earnings than a year ago, and over a third posted record results," said Staley.