B.F. Goodrich Co. cited sluggish chemical division earnings yesterday in reporting a 48.3 percent decline in third-quarter profits.

The Akron-based multinational company reported net income of $8.7 million (48 cents a share) compared with$16.8 million (99 cents) during last year's third quarter. Sales were down slightly to $749.9 million from $753 million a year ago.

"Volume and pricing weakness hurt a number of our major businesses," said John D. Ong, chairman and chief executive officer of the chemical and tire manufacturer.

It was the second straight quarterly earnings decline for Goodrich, which employed about 31,000 persons worldwide at the beginning of 1980.

Nine-month earnings were $39 million ($2.25) on sales of $2.213 billion, down from $67.7 million ($4.02) a year earlier on $2.299 billion in sales.

Ong said that the BFG tire group profits went up due to an increased demand for replacement passenger tires and company belt-tightening but added that operating rates and prices for the company's major products "are still too low to produce acceptable returns."

BGF's chemical group operating income dipped to $2.6 million on sales of $243 million in the third quarter this year from $35 million on sales of $266.5 million a year ago, the company said.

General Foods Corp., the nation's largest producer of coffee and packaged foods, said yesterday that earnings in its second fiscal quarter ended Sept. 27 fell 34 percent to $50.89 million ($1.02 a share), partly because of reduced earnings on coffee.

The latest earnings compared with $74.87 million ($1.50) a year earlier. The 1979 period benefited from a one-time tax credit in the United Kingdom and a lower effective tax rate, the company said.

The company said its sales rose 11 percent to $1.53 billion from $1.38 billion.

"Rapidly declining coffee prices, together with increased marketing support needed to meet new U.S. competition in decaffinated coffee, has resulted in temporarily decreasing margins in the coffee segment," the company said in a statement from its White Plains headquarters.

General Foods also said packaged convenience foods and desserts showed earnings gains.

First-half earnings were $123.25 million ($2.47), down 14 percent from $143.73 million ($2.88) a year earlier. Sales were $3.30 billion in this year's first half, up 14 percent from $2.87 billion.

Improved profitability of its Morrell meat-packing division and better results from growing lettuce and other produce lifted first-quarter earnings of United Brands Co. to $5.51 million (43 cents a share) from $2.54 million (18 cents) a year ago as sales rose to $1.007 billion from $874.2 million a year ago.

Chairman Seymour Millstein said reduced profit on bananas caused by high transportation costs and abundant crops were offset by the gains on other products.

TRW Inc. has reported its third-quarter profits were $48.9 million an increase of 6 percent over $46.3 million for the same period a year ago.

The Cleveland-based company's nine-month profits rose 7 percent to $154.7 million from $144.3 million a year earlier.

Sales for the quarter rose 7 percent to $1.19 billion from $1.11 billion

TRW is a worldwide manufacturer of high-technology products and services for electronics and space systems, car and truck, and industrial energy markets.

Inland Steel Co. said yesterday that it lost $6.08 million in the third-quarter compared with a 1979 third-quarter profit of $33.5 million ($1.62 a share).

Inland President Frederick G. Jaicks noted in a news release that the third-quarter loss was "significantly less" than the second quarter loss of $22.4 million.

"We expect to return to profitable operations for the fourth quarter and the calendar year," said Jaicks.

Third quarter sales totalled $704.4 million, down 24 percent from the $923 million in the same period of 1979.

Inland reported a nine-month loss of $1.1 million on sales of $2.4 billion compared with a 1979 nine-month profit of $107.5 million ($5.14) on sales of $2.8 billion.

A strong performance by its new steamship and gambling casino divisions enabled Holiday Inns Inc. to turn up big gains in third-quarter and nine-month profits.

Third-quarter net income was $38.39 million ($1 a share) on revenues of $415.41 million compared with $7.93 million (24 cents) a year ago on revenues of $284.82 million.