Who’s got the rural power?

If I’d been compiling a Primary Sector Power List I’d have had Jacqueline Rowarth on it.

Director of Agriculture at Massey University and is the inaugural Federated Farmers’ agricultural personality of the year.

She was also one of the panelists who drew up the Listener’s 2009 Power List which is why she doesn’t appear on it.

The top spot on the Listener’s list of  people who wield the power in the primary sector went to Chris Kelly, Landcorp’s chief executive.

He’s followed by Henry Van der Heyden,  Peter and Andrew Talley, Alan Hubbard and Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper.

I wouldn’t have put anyone from SFF on that list. The company does very well with PR but its performance doesn’t match its rhetoric.

If you set aside the settlement from PGG Wrightson in compensation for the failed merger bid and other one-off payments the company’s operating profit for the year was only $5.1m.

Contrast that with Alliance Group which does very little PR but made an operating profit of $67.9m.

Sheep and beef farmers are very grumpy and with good reason. Last season’s long awaited increase in prices was short lived and this season’s forecasts aren’t looking very bright.  But most of the grumpiness and concern is from SFF shareholders and suppliers and I don’t think they’d be voting anyone from the company on to a power list.

5 Responses to Who’s got the rural power?

  1. Brian says:

    Interesting assertion – against one year’s financial performance you’d leave off Keith Cooper, CE of NZ’s largest red meat exporter and marketer? A $2bn company which sets the market in Beef and Lamb. Which has supported the Venison market almost single handedly through tough times. You’d leave off someone who has measurable influence on the Boards of the MIA, Meat & Wool NZ, the NZ Lamb Company North America, and on international boards. Who is thinking laterally (he was in S America a good 2 months before Alliance even thought of it) who at least has a strategy – unlike Owen Poole who is effectively photostating everything Silver Fern Farms does. You’d leave off someone who is driving wholescale change to the sector. You’d leave off someone who has opened his door to other players and called for industry rationalisation to the long term betterment of livestock farmers. You represent the fundamental problem in NZ and with NZ farmers – short termism. In for the quick buck. And as for financial results, I’d venture a bet that when the real benefits of SFF’s local and international market-led strategy starts to bear fruit, they’ll leave the ‘conservatives’ like the ‘quiet men’ in the dust.


  2. homepaddock says:

    Brian – size isn’t everything. Sheep and beef farmers in general are unhappy. SFF’s are the most disgruntled and the company’s not popular with investors either.

    Chalkie, in the Independent (November 5) said: “. . . New Zealand’s biggest meat co-operative crept on to the Unlisted platform with a whimper last week . . . Prices which started at $1, crept down to 90 cents, then 75c. They ended last week at 70c before heading to 54c on Monday (almost 52,000 shares traded) and 52 on Tuesday.”

    I’m not sure why you mention Alliance’s chair rather than its CEO – Grant Cuff. Owen Poole’s counterpart in SFF is not Keith Cooper but Eion Garden.

    Besides, the Listener list was for the Primary Sector and the meat industry is only a small part of that.

    I’d have put either Connor English or Don Nicolson – Federated Farmers CEO and president, respectively, well ahead of Cooper. Lincoln University chancellor and former Feds president Tom Lambie would also be ahead of him on my list.


  3. Richard says:

    In the past, on this blog, I have been critical of the presentation of NZ lamp in the UK super markets; I lived off and on there for 23 years. Lamb was simply dumped and along side the French cuts looked awful and unappealing. This is the fault of the whole NZ meat industry over many years i.e. it has not been consumer lead – where there is added value.

    Comparisons between SFF and Alliance(on ROI or whatever) are difficult for a non-farmer. But I am encouraged by the efforts of SFF (PR perhaps?)- to provide good, well packaged, cuts to the French- of all people.

    HP- you would be doing a very good service if you could provide readers of your blog, information what Alliance are doing to achieve significantly better financial results than SFF

    You are, one of the few “rural bloggers” who have knowledge that you might like to share?

    A personal view:
    a. SFF has been very slack for a long time with a lack-luste CEO- Barnett? -and compliant Board; perhaps Cooper – a long serving employee, is trying to catch up.
    b. The PGG Wrightson/SFF merger saga is a case of incompetence in company governance in the rural sector- well done for SFF in extracting the sum they did- but it should never have happened. And I will say nothing about milking cows in South America.

    Ele, your journalism training vis “Show don’t tell” might help to provide answers for the SFF/Alliance question and the wider issues of the rural sector farming- Summary of no more than one A4 page will be fine.


  4. homepaddock says:

    Richard – it’s a long, complicated story which needs a post of its own. I’ll work on it.


  5. Richard says:

    Yes, I thought it would be complicated and complex. The allanbarber blog report on SFF sums up the value added and costs:
    “Building an international consumer brand is prohibitively expensive, even with help from the All Blacks, and increasing New Zealand’s share of the final consumer price has proved very hard.

    In fact a senior executive of another meat company recently said he wondered when we would wake up to the fact adding value increasingly means adding cost not profit. That is the real dilemma SFF must resolve.”

    As rule-of-thumb, investing/startup in product for the European & North American markets, be very generous in your initial costings then treble them.


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