Thursday, July 7, 2022

New chief executive at Open Country

Open Country Dairy Ltd has appointed its former national operations manager Steve Koekemoer to the position of chief executive.

The managing director of SKL8 Ltd, Koekemoer is closing down his project design and management consultancy business to move back to Open Country, where he was previously the national operations manager for Dairy Trust and then Open Country until mid 2010.

He takes up the reins as chief executive on October 15, filling the position left vacant by Steven Smith in July when he resigned, after two years in the job, to pursue job opportunities in South East Asia.

Chairman Laurie Margrain has covered as executive chairman over the past three months.

After leaving Open Country Dairy in 2010 Koekemoer established his company, SKL8 Ltd, and had successfully completed the design and project managed the two most recent independent dairy processing plants in New Zealand.

He told The New Zealand Farmers Weekly the offer from Open Country was an “exciting opportunity” he could not turn away.

“There is a good strong management team in place at Open Country Dairy and I look forward to being a part of that team as we focus on further growth in the company.”

This would include a focus towards achieving higher value commodity products and operational excellence, ensuring a competitive position on the international market.

The company had a good future. It was a strong performer with a clear focus on business performance. “I want to contribute more to that business growth and performance in the future,” Koekemoer said.

During his previous time as national operations manager Koekemoer set up the manufacturing sites for Open Country and operationally ran them with full accountability for manufacturing, engineering, supply chain, technical projects and quality.

Controlled by the Talley family, the company in February this year posted a loss of $29.5 million for the year to July 31, triple that of the previous year. The greater loss was attributed to the soaring price of raw milk in the 2011 year and a strong New Zealand dollar. Sales rose to $679m from $497.3m. Open Country’s second biggest shareholder is Singapore’s Olam International.

The company made a record payout to its farmer suppliers for the 2011 season with the average final farmgate milk price of $7.56/kg milksolids, up $1.49 on the previous year.

Established in 2001 Auckland-based Open Country Dairy Ltd is a private company operating in NZ as a dairy ingredient manufacturer, producing a range of high quality milk products. It is NZ’s second biggest dairy processor after Fonterra.

Open Country branded products have been exported successfully since 2004 with the company now exporting to around 45 countries.

The company’s strategy has been to site its factories in the pre-eminent dairying areas of NZ, sourcing its milk from the areas surrounding its factories, and it is now supplied by over 500 independent dairy farmers.

The first factory, a cheese plant, was established at Waharoa, Waikato in 2004. The site was further developed by adding a whey plant in 2006, an anhydrous milk fat plant in 2007 and a whole milk powder plant in 2008.

The next site to be developed was a whole milk powder plant at Awarua Southland, in 2008. Then another similar plant in Wanganui commenced operation in August 2009. The combined capacity of all sites is now around 900 million litres of milk each year. 

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