The world’s largest milk producer, Fonterra, has today announced it will be restructuring its organics operations, following flow-on effects of the global financial crisis (GFC).
Fonterra is meeting with its organic famers this week to take them through a four point plan to improve the business from, currently producing losses, and help them break even.
Fonterra employs 16,000 staff working in various places across the dairy spectrum from advising farmers on sustainable farming and milk production, to ensuring quality standards in more than 100 markets around the world.
It is a global supplier of dairy ingredients to many of the world’s leading food companies and has its own consumer dairy brands in Australia/New Zealand, Asia/Africa, Middle East and Latin America.
The farmer-owned New Zealand co-operative is the largest processor of milk in the world, producing more than two million tonnes of dairy ingredients, value added dairy ingredients, specialty ingredients and consumer products every year.
It is one of the largest investors in dairy based research and innovation around the world.
Fonterra has outlined its four step plan in a statement today, which are:
• Concentrating Fonterra’s North Island organic suppliers in one hub around its key certified organic processing site – Hautapu. This will reduce the number of Fonterra’s organic suppliers.
• Reducing the amount of product processed at Fonterra’s other two certified organic sites – Waitoa and Morrinsville.
• Prioritising the organic product range to focus on cheese which provides the best returns.
• Focusing on emerging Asian and Australasian organics markets where there are stronger returns and growth potential.
“In order to stay in organics, we have to recognise that the global market for organics has changed. This four point plan is designed to bring our organics business out of loss,”
Fonterra’s Group Director Supplier and External Relations Kelvin Wickham said.
He says the co-operative remains committed to the organics market but as growth in this market has significantly slowed since the global financial crisis, Fonterra needs to make changes to its organic operations.
He says the first two points will mean considerable transport and manufacturing cost savings for Fonterra’s organic business.
“Our organic farmers are currently spread right across the North Island. This means substantial transport costs for the business.
“In addition, focusing most of our organic product through a single site will mean we are able to create efficiencies of scale in processing the milk.
“We understand the big commitment many of our farmers have made to the organics programme and that this transition will not be an easy one to make.
“The decision to reduce our organics operation was not taken lightly but we need to get the business back into a break-even situation.
“We will honour all of our organic contracts through to their formal termination dates, which in some cases are four-five years away and we will work with our farmers as they make the transition out of the organics programme.”
Wickham says the impact of the GFC scientifically damaged the organics market and market indications are it will not recover to previous levels.
“All categories felt the effects but particularly the category in which we sell – packaged dairy foods – where prices and volumes are still below 2008 levels,” he said.
“Research shows people are now less willing to pay the premium for organic products.
“In addition, consumers are gaining more confidence that everyday products are being produced more sustainably and are more acceptable so they no longer see the need to pay the premium for most organic products.”
Image: Farm Land Grab