Fonterra’s departing chief executive Theo Spierings has been a strong leader, Tararua Federated Farmer’s president Neil Filer says.
Mr Filer, who is also the Tararua group’s dairy spokesman, told the Dannevirke News Spierings had moved Fonterra to a value-added space, which was good for dairy farmers.
“He’s done a good job since he began,” Filer said.
Spierings has not named a date for his departure after seven years, but Fonterra board chairman John Wilson said he had made an “extraordinary” contribution while in the job.
News of Spierings’ impending departure came today, the same day Fonterra announced a half-year loss of $348 million to January 31, after writing down its investment in Chinese infant food company Beingmate by $405m, while rival Synlait has posted a record half-year, after-tax profit of $40.7m.
But the lifting of the farmgate price to dairy farmers to $6.55 a kilogram of milk solids, up from $6.40, was “really good news,” Filer said.
“This lift in payout after the past few tough years is good,” he said.
DairyNZ statistics for the 2015-16 season show the 15 cent lift in payout puts an extra $279.28m into the New Zealand economy.
And Dannevirke’s Andrew Hardie, Fonterra Shareholder’s Council representative for Hawke’s Bay, told the Dannevirke News there is no way Spierings’ impending resignation should be linked to the half-year results of the company.
“He indicated last year he was going to step down and the company have been searching for his replacement and developing a profile of what the company needs,” he said.
“Fonterra is in good shape, with confidence in the milk price and although Beingmate has been challenging, by all indications there will be no write down of Fonterra’s credit rating by Standard and Poors.
“Fonterra is aiming for excellence and Spierings and his team have been delivering and the shareholder’s council will be working to ensure we continue to grow that excellence.”
Long-time Dannevirke dairy farmers Harold and Margaret Orsborn both agree Spierings has done good things for their industry.
“He did wonders in taking the business into the international market. He was brilliant,” Mrs Orsborn said. “And he handled all the problems such as the Chinese baby \-formula crisis well.”
The Orsborns have been in partnership for 45 years and Mr Orsborn has been on the farm for all but four of his 66 years.
“It’s going to be hard for someone to fill Spierings’ shoes, but we need someone who keeps in touch with dairy farmers, looking after the people who produce the product,” Mrs Orsborn said. “But we need that forward planning too.”
There are currently 292 dairy herds in the Tararua and 83 in Hawke’s Bay. In 2016/17, dairy companies New Zealand processed 20.7 billion litres of milk containing 1.85 billion kilograms of milksolids.
And while Spierings was paid $8.3m – a base salary of $2.46m, but topped up with two performance benefits of $1.83m for 2016 and $3.85m for 2017 – local dairy farmers spoken to said their industry needs to employ “top people.”
By: Christine McKay
Source: Hawkes Bay Today