Agribusiness and food giant Cargill booked a drop in first-half profits today (14 January) as its earnings took a big hit from its investment in The Mosaic Co.

For the six months to 30 November, earnings plummeted 62% to US$1.01bn after Mosaic was hit by a decline in prices for crop fertilizers.

Excluding Mosaic, Cargill's results were more "moderately below" the year-ago level in both periods, the group said.

"Cargill's business and geographic diversity continued to demonstrate its value, as a different mix of business units moved to the forefront in the second quarter," said Greg Page, Cargill chairman and CEO. "Performance was led by our food ingredients and agriculture services segments, both of which were up significantly from last year.

Page said Cargill's first-half earnings were "considerably better" than the last six months of fiscal 2009.

"Through November, Cargill's earnings were up by more than 50% from the preceding six months. The pick-up in performance reflects our continued focus on holding down costs, tapping both developed and faster-growing emerging markets, and reinvesting our capital in the future growth of the company and our customers. They, too, are working their way through the challenges of this economy," he added.

In December, Cargill struck a deal to buy Goodman Fielder's commercial edible fats and oils business in Australia and New Zealand.

The acquisition includes four refining facilities in Australia and New Zealand, which, along with Cargill's existing oilseeds refinery in Newcastle near Sydney, will provide the US group with national manufacturing and supply chain in both countries.

Cargill said it expects the acquisition to provide a platform for future growth in Australia and New Zealand, including the ability to offer customers food ingredients, product innovation, supply chain and risk management.

The purchase remains subject to regulatory approval.