Monday, February 26, 2024

Nelson makes history at Silver Fern Farms helm

Neal Wallace
Meat co-operative elects its first female chair amid several changes at the top.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Anna Nelson has become the first woman to chair a major New Zealand meat company, having been elected to replace Rob Hewett at the helm of Silver Fern Farms Co-operative.

Hewett announced his retirement after 10 years in the role and will step down at May’s annual meeting.

Nelson, who farms at Aria in the King Country, was recently unanimously elected to the role by the board.

Hewett, a farmer-elected director from South Otago, will stay on the board for another year as an appointed director to assist with changes in chief executive and to provide governance continuity.

Simon Limmer retires next month a chief executive of Silver Fern Farms Ltd, the operating arm jointly owned by the co-operative and Shanghai Maling; he is being replaced by Dan Boulton.

Hewett said the measures are designed to create continuity, given there are leadership changes at both governance and senior executive level. 

Hewett was elected to the board in 2008 and elected chair in 2013, a time when the meat company was financially crippled and the banks were demanding it seek fresh capital.

SFF sold half its processing and marketing business to Shanghai Maling for $261 million.

Hewett expressed his confidence in Nelson, a view he said is shared by the board.

“Anna will be an exceptional chair. Despite the prevailing market conditions we’re experiencing, we’re going into the next period in good health and with a clear focus,” he said. 

It has been a rapid rise for Nelson.

Raised in Cheviot, Nelson trained as a vet and practised in Waikato for 10 years.
She and husband Blair Munta, along with in-laws Jon and Kaye, run a 1450ha breeding and finishing block in King Country.

In 2016 Nelson completed a Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme and in 2021 was a board-appointed farmer director on SFF Co-op. She was elected to the board last year.

She is an associate director at Beef+Lamb NZ and the catchment co-ordinator at King Country River Care.

Nelson said she is looking forward to leading a unified board and working closely with shareholders and suppliers through the current market challenges.

“As a farmer as well as a director, I’m acutely aware of how market conditions are being felt right across our supply chain,” Nelson said.

“This gives our board a clear focus and resolve to continue creating value for the farmers the world needs.” 

Gabrielle Thompson, a farmer-elected director, is also retiring from the co-operative board by rotation but is seeking re-election.

There are two board positions available and nominations from those seeking election are open.

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