Cargill has reported a huge leap in net earnings in its first quarter, rising 83% on the same period last year to US$917m.

"Cargill is off to a strong start in the new fiscal year," said Greg Page, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer. "June through August was an extraordinary period, with growing demand for agricultural commodities against tightening supplies and a long anticipated but dramatic reduction in liquidity and leverage in financial markets. All of this sparked a new level of market volatility. Because of our company's global insight, the connectedness among our businesses and our supply chain and risk management competencies, we were able to put our knowledge and experience to work for the benefit of customers and the company."

First-quarter results were led by Cargill's origination and processing segment, which sources, processes, markets and distributes agricultural commodities and provides supply chain and risk management services to customers globally.

Food ingredients and applications, and industrial also outperformed last year's first-quarter earnings.

The agriculture services segment, which serves crop and livestock producers, edged ahead of last year's results. The risk management and financial segment was moderately below the year-ago level, which reflected smaller contributions from some energy and financial activities.

In a statement the company added that it had begun the process of purchasing the remaining shares of Agrograin, a Hungarian grain company in which it bought a minority interest and formed a joint venture in 1995. "The acquisition supports the further development of Cargill's grain and oilseeds origination capacity in central and east Europe," a statement said.

Cargill also announced plans to double the capacity of its canola processing plant in Clavet, Saskatchewan.