Global food and agricultural conglomerate Cargill has reported its key financial results for the third quarter (Q3) of the 2018 fiscal year, with adjusted operating earnings falling by 22% from $715m to $559m, while nine-month earnings fell from $2.58bn last year to $2.4bn, a decrease of 7%.

As a result of the recently enforced Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 in the US, the company received a net charge of $161m this year. Otherwise, Cargill’s results would have been consistent with 2017. Revenues for 2018 Q3 rose by 2%, from $27.85bn to $84.32bn.

Cargill chair and CEO David MacLennan said: “Our steady results from operations demonstrate that our strategic direction is the right one. The performance of our team worldwide keeps Cargill moving ahead, preparing us to continue to grow. In a time of continually changing expectations, we are setting ourselves apart to help our customers succeed.”

One high performing sector was animal nutrition and protein, which led the company’s results for the fourth successive quarter. Products such as animal feed, premixes, additives and micronutrients were strong contributors to earnings, as well as beef and egg protein specifically across the North America division.  Cargill’s aqua nutrition and poultry sector underperformed compared to Q3 last year, in part due to lower pricing in some markets.

The company has undertaken some important undertakings, creating a joint venture (JV) with UK-based fresh poultry supplier Faccenda Foods, and pursuing a minority equity investment in Irish digital company Cainthus, which uses predictive imaging analytics to observe the health of livestock.

It has also invested in predictive software iQShrimp that employs machine learning techniques and sensors to give shrimp farmers a real-time visibility of their operations.

The food ingredients and applications sector experienced mixed performance but continued to be the second-largest contributor to earnings. Products such as cocoa, chocolate and edible oils posted gains, while global sweeteners and starches fell due to lower ethanol prices across North America and higher manufacturing costs in Europe.

Within the plant-based foods sector, Cargill invested $25m in a JV with Minneapolis-based pea protein producer Puris. Pea proteins are used in the manufacture of baked goods, cereals and snack bars.

The company also opened its first food-grade potassium chloride operation within its salt facility. The compound acts as a substitute to sodium, enabling food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their food by up to 50% while maintaining taste and functionality.

MacLennan added: “To fulfil our purpose of nourishing the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, we are looking to combine efforts with a diverse set of organisations. These partnerships offer the chance to unlock creative breakthroughs that meet collective challenges.”