(Adds details, background, full-year results, byline)
By Karl Plume
Aug 7 Cargill Inc, a top global commodities trader, said on Thursday its quarterly earnings fell as drought limited farm services opportunities in the United States and due to a loss stemming from the drop in the value of Venezuela's currency.
Minneapolis-based Cargill was also stung by elevated rail shipping costs and railcar shortages in the northern U.S. Plains states, which have similarly impacted rival agribusinesses Archer Daniels Midland Co and Bunge Ltd.
Privately-held Cargill reported net earnings of $424 million for the fiscal fourth quarter ended May 31. That was down 12 percent from $483 million in the same quarter a year earlier.
Revenue rose 2 percent to $36.2 billion in the quarter, compared with $35.4 billion a year earlier.
The company's full-year fiscal 2014 earnings declined 19 percent to $1.87 billion while revenues slipped 1 percent to $134.9 billion.
Cargill was the latest U.S. corporation to be hurt by the drop in value of Venezuela's bolivar, joining the likes of Colgate-Palmolive, Fiat Chrysler, Goodyear Tire & Rubber and numerous U.S. airlines. Critics have called the country's revamped exchange rate system a devaluation in disguise.
It also said that earnings in its food ingredients and applications business declined after four straight years of record profits due to weaker economic conditions in some markets and the negative Venezuelan currency impact.
Results from Cargill's origination and processing segment - which buys, sells, stores and transports agricultural products - slipped on the lingering impact of the drought in the U.S. Plains as well as rail shipping woes.
Rail carriers in the northern United States and Canada have struggled to recover from severe winter service delays caused by harsh weather as demand for shipping oil by rail has soared.
Canada's government ordered the country's key railways to ship at least 1 million tonnes of crops a week to clear a grain backlog ahead of the fall harvest while the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has ordered railroads to report weekly grain shipping performance.
Cargill's beef business was a bright spot as a downturn in feed costs boosted North American cattle feeding margins and beef exports from Australia were brisk. But the company, one of the largest U.S. beef processors, has closed plants in Wisconsin and Texas over the past year as the U.S. cattle herd shrunk to the smallest in 63 years.
Pork and poultry results improved from a year ago.
Earnings in industrial and financial services were mixed, the company said, with poor results in energy more than offsetting stronger profits in its ocean shipping business and gains from a joint steel-making venture. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, G Crosse)