Agribusiness buzz in brief

Agribusiness buzz in brief


A quick look around at what people are doing and talking about around the agribusiness traps


Fonterra axing off-farm investors?

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra is rethinking the farmer co-operative's capital structure, indicating it would like to buy back units in the listed Fonterra Shareholder Fund.

The fund allows non-farmer investors to hold a capital stake in the business, but the co-op is now looking at capping the fund's size or acquiring that stake entirely .

It says removing outside investment and placing all trading back in farmers' hands could lower the cost for new farmers entering the industry.

Unit holders have no voting or share ownership rights, but Fonterra is concerned active farmers may still lose their power base if too many dry shares are converted to units.

Fonterra said bringing the shares back in-house would mean farmer dynamics would set the share price rather than the fund.

NZ industry experts suggest farmer shareholders won't decide the fund's fate until well into the new financial year.


New Nutrien chief

Outgoing president and chief executive of Canadian-based fertiliser and farm services multinational Nutrien, Chuck Magro departs the company on May 16, replaced by newly appointed Mayo Schmidt.

Mr Magro (pictured), who was in Australia regularly to oversee the Landmark takeover of rival agency and farm supplies business Ruralco, has been at the helm at Nutrien and its predecessor, Agrium, for seven years.

His replacement, Mr Schmidt, is originally from Kansas, USA, where his family's background was in dairy and grain production.

He has more than 30 years of agribusiness leadership experience, previously serving as CEO of Viterra and working in leadership roles at ConAgra Grain, Canada, and General Mills.

Nutrien employs more than 22,000 people globally and boasts being the world's largest provider of crop inputs.


Elders backs RFDS

Elders Limited has committed to a another three-year sponsorship of the Royal Flying Doctor Service's Central Operations serving South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The farm services business will make a $300,000 contribution direct to the RFDS capital-raising program for the perennial upgrade of its fleet of airborne intensive care units.

"Elders and the RFDS share much in common in terms of their commitment to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of those who live, work and travel in these communities, including our staff, clients and their families," said Elders SA general manager Bernard Seal.

In recognition of its support, the medically-equipped RFDS aircraft VH-FXW, or 'Whiskey' as it is known, bears the Elders brand on its fuselage.

Over the past year 'Whiskey' has flown 470,000 kilometres and airlifted almost 1000 patients from 55 different regional and remote communities for specialist medical treatment.


Malting plant reopening

Global malster Boortmalt will re-open its Joe White Maltings facility at Cavan in North Adelaide early in the new financial year.

Its Cavan malting plant was one of seven acquired in November 2019 when the Joe White business was sold by Cargill.

Infrastructure and control systems will be extensively upgraded with a focus on quality improvements, sustainability initiatives and efficient production.

Boortmalt Group chief executive officer Yvan Schaepman, said reopening the Cavan malthouse had been one of the giant's priorities after the integration, thereby enabling rapid production expansion capacities to support Australian export markets in Asia and South America.

Cavan would provide 77,000 tonnes of extra malt capacity to support the company's existing malting operations in Port Adelaide and employ an extra 10 staff.

The site is likely to be fully operational by January 2022.


Rural Bank scholarships

Rural Bank has awarded $75,000 through the Bank's annual Scholarship Program to 15 regional and rural students to help ease their further education burden.

To aid the transition to tertiary study and to help students thrive in their chosen field the first-time students studying an agribusiness or agricultural related qualification will receive $5000 to assist course costs, study materials, accommodation and equipment.

Acknowledging the impacts of the past 18 months of bushfires, floods and COVID-19 on regional and rural communities, the program this year shifted to also offer scholarships to students studying a Certificate, Diploma or Advanced Diploma at TAFE colleges across Australia.

Nine females and six males made up this year's recipients from regional Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, NSW and Victoria.

They will be undertaking TAFE and university courses in agribusiness, agricultural sciences, veterinary technology, business and agriculture.

Rural Bank chief executive officer Alexandra Gartmann said a number of this year's scholarship applicants were from communities directly affected by fires and prolonged drought while COVID-19 challenges included online study and isolation from peers.

"Their resilience and talent continues to amaze me. I look forward to following their careers and impact on the sector," she said.

Wine sector insight online

Wine Australia has launched an Interactive Insights portal - giving grapegrowers and winemakers around-the-clock access to the latest wine export and grape production data.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said access to information was a critical factor in developing sustainable businesses.

"This resource will give the sector the power to do individualised research on exports, crush, winegrape price, vineyard plantings and global wine markets whenever they need access to this powerful information," he said.

The portal includes an export dashboard with comprehensive wine export reports, a national vintage survey dashboard providing crush and winegrape price information, a market explorer business planning tool and an interactive wine Geographical Indications map of Australian wine regions.


New Ridley CFO

Ridley Corporation's new chief financial officer, Richard Betts will join the company in August.

He will replace Alan Boyd who retires on August 26.

Mr Betts was most recently CFO at food industry packaging product company Pact Group for six years, prior to that working with chemical company Orica.

"Richard is an experience listed company CFO with excellent commercial acumen and a strong background in multi-site manufacturing businesses," said Ridley managing director Quinton Hildebrand.


Coles sustainability week

Coles' ambition to be Australia's most sustainable supermarket has resulted in a second annual Sustainability Week for its 118,000-plus staff in Australia.

More than 2500 stores and sites will focus each weekday on a key area of the retailer's Sustainability Strategy via team member videos, posters and discussions on how to prioritise sustainable ways of working.

Topics include, food waste and the supermarket's 10-year partnership with food rescue organisation SecondBite; 10 years of partnering with soft plastics recycler REDCycle to collect 1.5 billion pieces of soft plastic, and highlighting the importance packaging plays in reducing food waste and how to recycle different packaging.

"Since launching our new Together to zero sustainability strategy in March, we have seen an increase in focus from our team members in embedding sustainability in their day-to-day activities," said chief sustainability, property and export officer, Thinus Keeve.

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