Wednesday, 26 July 2023 12:55

Seven battling for two Farmlands board seats

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Farmlands board election candidate Will Clarke wants the rural trader to lift its game. Farmlands board election candidate Will Clarke wants the rural trader to lift its game.

Voting is underway for rural trader Farmlands' director elections.

Seven candidates are vying for two director positions - chair Rob Hewett, Kate Alexander, Leanne Blakelock, Will Clarke, David Ferguson, Lucy Griffiths, and Sophie Siers. 

Voting papers, including independent assessment of candidates by Propero Consulting, were sent to shareholders last month. Voting closes 5pm on Wednesday, August 1. All candidates will be informed of the results.

Clarke, a beef and dairy farmer from Clinton, South Otago, is calling for the rural trader to lift its game.

After spending 18 months with Farmlands as a board observer, he's ready to serve as a director and lift the co-op's performance.

If Farmlands isn't strong then farmers and industry still suffer, the 39-year-old told Dairy News.

Falling farmgate prices are affecting Farmlands' performance.

"My family rely on our farm for our living, which means I know how Farmlands' business is changing, they must adapt to meet farmers' and growers' changing demands. Farmlands’ performance isn’t good enough – they need to improve their service and deliver better value to farmers,” Clarke says.

“Farmlands is important to the industry. If they aren’t strong then farming businesses will suffer and independent operators will take more market share. Right now farmers are pulling back on their spending in response to falling prices, dropping revenue for Farmlands.”

In his candidate profile, Hewett says Farmlands is adapting and flexing to meet the needs of a changing market – and its 80,000 shareholder customers.

Hewett notes that change is coming fast – be it legislative change such as emissions or water quality, economic change such as rising farm input costs and interest rate increases, post-Covid growing pains, or change forced by exporter’s consumers, increasingly discerning of the products grown on farms.

“As you adapt to meet these changes in your own situation, Farmlands must adapt to remain relevant to you and your needs,” he says.

But Hewett adds that change is never easy.

“The continuous challenge is to identify the changes needing to be made, prioritise, and execute them as quickly and seamlessly as possible – while continuing to provide you with the products and services you need, while the business transitions to a revised business model to better meet your changing needs.

“Farmlands is well down this path of change, but there is still plenty more to do. It requires commitment and conviction to continue this journey, even when the economic climate has gotten tougher. This has made the case for change and speed of execution even more relevant.”

Ferguson, a former NZ Trade Commissioner, and champion of the cooperative model, believes Farmlands’ strength is the combined buying power of its shareholders.

“I believe more value can be created by consistently negotiating better supplier agreements.

“I’ve worked in NZ and overseas leading large value supply negotiations, so this is an area where I have experience to contribute. Farmlands’ improvement in retail needs to be matched by ensuring we are consistently negotiating the best deals with all suppliers.

“With pressure on farming margins, Farmlands also needs to closely watch its overheads to ensure a lean operation that delivers significant savings to its shareholders,” he says.

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