MINNEAPOLIS — Cargill earned $3.33 billion during fiscal year 2009, a decline of 16% from the $3.95 billion in earnings the company posted during fiscal 2008. Sales for the year declined 3% to $116.6 billion compared with the previous year.

"The year was a tale of two halves," said Greg Page, chairman and chief executive officer. "Cargill posted record results through November. In the second half, earnings slowed considerably as the world economy contracted for the first time in six decades. In the end, the net effect was the second-best year in our company’s history."

Mr. Page credited Cargill’s profitability to four factors.

"The company went into the downturn with a strong balance sheet," he said. "We acted early to reduce costs and decrease the use of debt and operating working capital. Our trading teams anticipated price volatility correctly in both the run-up and the run down in commodity values. We kept the focus on being a reliable supplier to our customers — helping them meet the challenges of these difficult economic times."

For the fiscal year, earnings in the company’s Origination and Processing business unit, which includes the company’s grain and oilseed supply china interests as well as sugar business, were moderately below last year’s record high. The Food Ingredients and Applications segment’s results also were down moderately.

The Agriculture Services business finished the year just under the year-ago levels. The Risk Management and Financial segment incurred a loss but its energy businesses posted record results. The Industrial Segment pulled ahead of last year due to a strong first half.

During the fourth quarter Cargill earned $327 million, a decline of 69% when compared with the same period of fiscal 2008 when the company earned $1.05 billion.

Mr. Page said Cargill expects the effects of the decline in world economic growth to persist for some time.

"The path to economic recovery may well be uneven, but Cargill remains optimistic," he said.