Agribusiness buzz in brief

Agribusiness buzz in brief


Farm Online News
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A quick look around the traps at some of the happenings in agribusiness this week

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Saputo workers’ rights push

Unions in Canada have convinced about 26 per cent of Saputo Inc shareholders to support an annual general meeting resolution calling on the company to institute a human rights risk assessment for its workers.

The British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) argued the Canadian dairy giant, which recently acquired Australia’s Murray Goulburn processing business, should pay more attention to “human rights and worker abuses in Saputo's operations and supply chain” which could inflict significant brand damage and lower shareholder value.

Campaign manager, Emma Pullman, said the strong shareholder result should send a powerful message to Saputo that shareholders wanted their investment protected via a human rights audit and worker rights, and shareholder value went hand in hand.

The union’s case related in particular to Saputo’s use of labour contractors, subcontractors and temporary staff.

Saputo’s board of directors had opposed the resolution, which was lost.

Wrightson rumours continue

Speculation continues about the future ownership of New Zealand farm services company, PGG Wrightson, including potential interest from Australia’s Elders and Ruralco.

PGG Wrightson this week announced Danish company DLF Seeds was buying the Wrightson Seeds division for $383 million, equivalent to about 80 per cent of the company’s overall market value.

The deal follows a strategic review NZ’s biggest agribusiness services outfit, which has other interests in livestock, wool processing, real estate, insurance and water.

Chief executive, Ian Glasson, said it was "business as usual" following the sale, but observers believe PGGW’s 50pc Chinese owner, Agia Corporation, may still look to quit its stake and a sell off of the rest of the company is still on the cards.

Ruralco has previously refused to comment about its interest in any takeover, while Elders said it was always open to any compelling and strategic investment opportunities in the agribusiness sector.

However, last month Elders felt the need to assure the Australian Securities Exchange it had not made any definitive offer for PGG Wrightson, despite having a team in NZ to investigate.

Observers believe the sale of the seeds business, which operates in NZ, Australia, South Africa and the US, may make PGGW’s remaining assets less attractive to Australian investment given the hefty asking price paid in this week’s deal. 

Burra milk to Taiwan

Gippsland-based dairy processor, Burra Foods, has launched a new extended shelf life dairy brand, Pure Source Milk, to be sold in Taiwan.

The one-litre milk packs contain a “farm finder” QR code which links consumers to key information about the farmers supplying Burra, with a focus on the regional provenance of Victoria’s Gippsland region name.

Pure Source Milk is being shipped by sea to initially sell across 5000 distribution points in Taiwan, supported by an integrated marketing campaign promoting Gippsland’s pristine farming environment.

It is expected to have a shelf life of about a month or more once in store.

New WA CEO search

WAFarmers has begun searching for a new chief executive officer, again, following the resignation of Trent Kensett-Smith after just 10 months in the top job.

Mr Kensett-Smith announced this week he intended to return to the agribusiness sector.

He was Koch Fertilisers manager for Western Australia before joining the farmer body last October.

WAFarmers board confirmed it had immediately started the process of recruitment for a new CEO and wished Mr Kensett-Smith good luck for the future.

Cotton Australia's new board of directors.

Cotton Australia's new board of directors.

New guard at Cotton Australia

Cotton Australia’s outgoing grower chairman, Simon Corish, has been replaced by St George farmer and former deputy chairman, Hamish McIntyre.

Board member, Nigel Burnett, will take the deputy’s job from Mr McIntyre who, like Mr Corish, has held his position for three years.

The peak cotton industry body has one less director after its annual general meeting this week where only two new candidates were nominated – Bernie Bierhoff from the Walgett Cotton Growers’ Association and Susan McCutcheon, Macquarie Cotton Growers’ Association.

They replace the retiring Mr Corish, Barb Grey and Chris Hogendyk.

Namoi Cotton managing director, Jeremy Callachor, was re-elected to his Cotton Australia board seat.

Other directors are Matt McVeigh, Peter Tuohey, Fluer Anderson and Bob Dall’alba.

“I thank the retiring members for their service, hard work and commitment to our industry and passionate advocacy for Australian cotton,” Mr McIntyre said.

Select secretarial shuffle

Select Harvests Limited has appointed its recently recruited chief financial officer, Brad Crump, to also hold the company secretary’s role, replacing Vanessa Huxley, who finishes as finance general manager and company secretary on August 24 after seven years with the company.

“Vanessa has fulfilled her role admirably and served Select Harvests with distinction,” said chairman Michael  Iwaniw.

Mr Crump joined Select as CFO last November.

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