Plunging Crop Output Boosts Cargill

Montreal, Canada

The world’s biggest agricultural trader, Cargill, earned a near-record profit in its fiscal second quarter. As grain prices continue to soar since last summer, trading houses that specialize in seed processing and global distribution are making big bucks.

If you never heard of Cargill, then check this out. Cargill is a massive trading operation with a long history of making money in the agriculture space. The company, which might be seeking a public listing in the United States, was founded before the Civil War. And if Cargill ever chooses to become public, the shares would be a tremendous long-term investment.

Cargill purchases crops such as wheat, corn and soybeans and subsequently processes these grains and sells them though its international distribution chain.

Cargill is the largest shareholder of Mosaic Co. (NYSE-MOS), one of the biggest fertilizer companies in the country. Since going public earlier in the 2000s, MOS’s stock price has more than quintupled.

Cargill’s earnings bolted higher during its first-half as the company generated $2.37 billion dollars, up from $1.01 billion dollars a year earlier. That’s almost a record.

The windfall in Cargill’s profit margins owes to several major developments over the last year.

Russia’s near-devastating harvests – the worst since the 1990s – combined with falling crop yields in most other grain-growing countries, made 2010 a good year as grain prices surged.

Also, last week the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the 2010-2011wheat season would exceed the previous export record in 1991-1992 as more countries increase their imports to supplement poor domestic harvests. Egypt, traditionally a major importer of Russian grain, will import more from the United States this year.

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