The agri-giant this week reported earnings of $1.03bn for the four months ended February 29, representing 86 percent growth over Q3 2007. In addition, Cargill reported net earnings of $2.9bn for the first three quarters of this fiscal year, amounting to a 69 percent increase over the same period from the previous year. At a time when demand is increasing, global stocks of grain are at their lowest level in 35 years. "Prices are setting new highs and markets are extraordinarily volatile," said Greg Page, Cargill chairman and CEO. "In this environment, Cargill's team has done an exceptional job measuring and assessing price risk, and managing the large volume of grains, oilseeds and other commodities moving through our supply chains for customers globally." The company, which has global headquarters in Minneapolis, reported that four of its five divisions experienced significant growth the third quarter as compared to the same period in the previous year. The Cargill division dealing with processing and distributing agricultural commodities brought about the largest earnings, followed by its industrial segment, which benefited from an increased global demand for fertilizers. The company's food ingredients division and agricultural services also grew, while its risk management and financial segment shrunk relative to Q3 2007. A further breakdown of figures is not available as the company is privately held. At the time of its Q2 earnings reported in January, Cargill indicated the company's growth was also brought about by heavy investment. The firm said that over the past it spent more than $18bn to expand its global footprint and had posted continuous sales growth throughout the same period. This month the firm announced the construction of its first ever sugar refinery in the US as part of its plans to be a 'one-stop shop' for sweeteners and sugars to the food industry. The $150mn Louisiana plant is set to process a million tons of sugar every year, primarily for the US market. Cargill already trades raw sugar in Switzerland, China, the US and Holland, and operates two sugar export terminals in Brazil. The company is a world leader in sweeteners and is seeking approval for its stevia sweetener by marketing it for use in 'natural' foods and beverages. Over the Q2 period, Cargill also began producing chocolate for the food industry from a new facility in Brazil, and signed a joint venture with Spanish olive oil cooperative Hojiblanca. In addition, the agribusiness established a website for buying a variety of grain products.