MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Agribusiness conglomerate Cargill Inc. said its fiscal first-quarter earnings fell 66 percent amid a volatile global grain market.

The company said its net income from continuing operations for the quarter ended Aug. 31 was $236 million, down from $693 million during the same period last year.

Revenue jumped 34 percent during the quarter to $34.6 billion.

Cargill is a privately held company that doesn’t report its results in the same level of detail as publicly traded firms. The company is involved in almost all aspects of agribusiness, from raising livestock to processing and shipping crops and food ingredients.

The company said its first-quarter net income was also hurt by a tough comparison. Last year, the company booked $190 million in net income during the first quarter because of its majority ownership stake in fertilizer maker Mosaic Co. Cargill has since sold its stake in Mosaic.

But Cargill was also hurt by a global commodity market that experience historic swings in prices. The price of corn, for example, jumped from about $6.20 in June to $7.70 in August, a 24 percent swing. Soybean jumped from $13.13 in June to $13.32 a bushel in July, only to fall again to $13.32 a bushel before spiking to $14.23 a bushel in late August.

While Cargill can benefit from higher crop prices, the company said the wild swings in the market “limited prudent trading opportunities.”

“It was a tough quarter. With results down from recent levels, we’re focused on regaining our earnings momentum,” CEO Greg Page said in a statement.

The company said its agriculture services delivered a strong performance as crop input sales rose. The food ingredient and applications segment nearly matched last year’s record-high performance, the company said, but did not provide figures.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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