Cargill reports 19% earnings drop, tries to focus on sustainability

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014

Agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. is looking to shine a light on its sustainable agriculture practices in its latest annual report as company leaders announced a 19 percent decline in net earnings this year.

An unusually cold winter, China’s rejection of corn exports and soft demand for Cargill’s poultry business in Asia all led to a dip in net earnings to $1.87 billion in fiscal 2014, according to the company’s latest financialreport. But Cargill also intensified its efforts to source cocoa from smallholder farms in Africa, optimize fertilizer use in South America and commit to palm oil that does not lead to deforestation in Asia.

“We believe the supply chains that support the global food system must respect people and human rights; produce safe and wholesome food; treat animals humanely; promote responsible agricultural practices; and reduce environmental impact, including protecting high-conservation value land and conserving scarce resources,” states the corporate sustainability report.

In an effort to support agriculture in Africa, Cargill has agreed to purchase 10,000 metric tons of corn from 4,000 farmers during the 2014 harvest. It also launched a program to help Nicaraguan sorghum farmers with technical assistance this year. Overall, charitable giving topped $59 million in 59 countries this year.

Most recently, Cargill announced it would stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation (E&ENews PM, July 29).

“The overall message represents a massive change for Cargill,” said Glenn Hurowitz, chairman of the Forest Heroes campaign to end deforestation in Southeast Asia, where most oil palm is grown. The company has undergone a “revolution in attitude,” he added.

Cargill reported a 12 percent decrease in revenue earlier this month in its full-year earnings announcement. The company also announced a joint venture today with Brazilian sugar company Copersucar to create Alvean, a trader of raw and refined sugar.