US food and agriculture giant Cargill today (14 April) posted third-quarter net earnings of US$326m, down 68% from last year’s profits of $1.03bn.

“Cargill’s earnings turned down in the third quarter, as the troubles in the global economy and financial system arrived at our company’s doorstep,” said Cargill chairman and CEO Greg Page.

“When conditions reversed course in mid-2008, we began preparing for tougher times ahead. We cut expenses, decreased debt and curtailed nonbase capital spending, but we kept the focus on our customers who need a strong, reliable partner to help them provide more value to the customers they serve.”

The drop in third-quarter earnings hit all five of the company’s business units. The company said that it experienced weaker demand and lower sales volumes as well as fewer trading opportunities.

In the first nine months, Cargill said earnings increased 4% to $3.01bn from $2.9bn a year ago. However, excluding earnings from its majority investment in The Mosaic Company, Cargill’s results were below the year-ago level in both the third quarter and nine-month period.

Page said Cargill remains confident that it will emerge from the downturn well-placed for future growth. 

“When conditions come into place for a recovery on the broader economic front, with our fundamentals in place, we’ll be ready to build on those trends,” he said.