The farm sector will see a notable change of guard within a host of our most high profile corporate agribusinesses in 2023.
The list of chief executive retirements due in the coming 12 months has grown quite long of late, including some with a decade of service under their belt.
SunRice Group managing director, Rob Gordon, became the latest managing director to confirm he would exit, ending 11 years in the role in August.
From horticulture and dairy to agribusiness banking, up to a dozen current or looming changes at the top will follow what has been a bonanza year for some companies, but a weather-weary time for others.
Some big outfits have already recruited new bosses.
Notably, Canadian, Kelly Freeman, recently started with farm services giant, Nutrien Ag Solutions, replacing Rob Clayton who moves to the US in January, and former Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, who has temporarily filled the saddle at Gina Rinehart's Hancock Agriculture.
Farm input cost pressures, rising interest rates, global economic headwinds and variable markets indicate interesting times, at the very least, for those moving into top level farm sector roles in 2023, despite bullish commodity prices and quite good seasonal conditions.
At SunRice, where Mr Gordon last week announced a 17 per cent half year profit jump to $19.6 million, chairman, Laurie Arthur, applauded his CEO's achievements since taking the job in 2012.
During his tenure, the farmer-owned company has seen a capital restructure and listing on the Australian Securities Exchange; opened a substantial Singapore trading hub and Vietnamese rice mill; acquired stockfeed and gourmet products businesses and delivered improved prices to ricegrowers and 400pc in shareholder returns.
A transition process to select a replacement is underway.
Elsewhere in the grain processing sector, United Malt Group boss, Mark Palmquist, will leave by July having served three-plus years, and almost six leading United's former parent, GrainCorp, before its 2020 demerger.
United Malt's profits were caned by North American drought and high barley processing costs in 2021-22, but Mr Palmquist has forecast strong performance gains in 2022-23 and beyond for his successor, prompting a slight share price rebound from historic lows of $2.83 to about $3.40 each.
Elders shareholders have been far less optimistic since Mark Allison signalled he would leave next December, sending the big red farm services player's shares plunging 23pc.
Mr Allison, initially an Elders board director from 2009, then chairman in 2013, took the CEO's job to guide the company's significant turnaround after it nearly sank under the weight of its debt in 2010-11.
He said the share market reaction to news of his eventual retirement was a "gross overreaction".
However some industry observers noted investors seemed worried the coming year may not be so rewarding for Elders, after its record $163m profit in 2021-22.
Paul van Heerwaarden
Bega Group CEO, Paul van Heerwaarden, will depart after January ending 13 years in executive roles with the dairy and spreads business, replaced by chief operating officer, Pete Findlay, who joined Bega Cheese in 2019.
Mr van Heerwaarden has driven some of Bega's big growth moves, including buying Kraft brands, such as Vegemite, from Mondelez International; 2018's Koroit big milk factory acquisition from Saputo, and the Lion Dairy and Drinks takeover in 2021.
Dairy and pantry products producer, Maggie Beer Holdings, still needs a replacement for its CEO of three years, Chantale Millard, who will stay in the job until her successor settles in next year.
In horticulture, troubled Costa Group, has temporarily reinstated former managing director of 10 years, Harry Debney, while seeking a permanent replacement for Sean Hallahan who held the job during 18 months of extreme weather and pandemic-related setbacks for the avocado, berry, citrus and glasshouse tomato producer.
Australia's biggest almond business, Select Harvests, will lose Paul Thompson after a decade as CEO, replaced in late February by New Zealand meat processing co-operative boss, David Surveyor.
Although flooding, the pandemic's logistic and market disruptions, low global prices and pollination challenges frustrated business performance in 2021-22, under Mr Thompson's watch Select has grown into an integrated farming, value-adding and marketing business, trebling its orchard area to 9000 hectares.
In agribusiness banking, after a year of waiting for a permanent appointment, concessional government lender, Regional Investment Corporation's new CEO, John Howard, has just arrived from an agricultural investment background.
Rabobank's Australia and NZ regional manager, Peter Knoblanche, will be replaced by his South American counterpart, Mark Wiessing, in May after 27-years with the specialist agribusiness bank, including seven in his current role.
A planned demerger at Incitec Pivot aims to have the fertiliser business stand alone later in 2023, with Christine Corbett signed as CEO-designate from January.
She was previously designated CEO for energy giant AGL's planned Australian business demerger, which was abandoned.
Research into typical CEO tenures at ASX 200 companies has suggested the top bosses typically have held their roles about five years.
"Given quite a few of these agribusiness CEOs are leaving after seven or 10 years, it's a pretty good innings," said research head at financial services firm, Wilsons Advisory, James Ferrier.
Agribusiness analyst with stockbrokers, Morgans, Belinda Moore, believed the large contingent of CEOs set to leave big agribusinesses in 2023 was an interesting coincidence, but not a sign of any rush for the door because they feared ominous challenges ahead, or were already feeling bruised.
Some had overseen strong recent profit results thanks to three years of good seasonal and commodity prices, but agribusiness performances could often vary, particularly due to the weather.
Mr Ferrier also observed farm sector companies had to negotiate a relatively high level of volatility risk and unpredictable challenges, and some of these in the past year were global trade and seasonal setbacks largely beyond most CEO's immediate control.
"Just because the industry here has had above average commodity prices and good rainfall, those factors don't necessarily float all boats."
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