23 Sep 2011

Ferrier bows out after eight years at the top

6:09 am on 23 September 2011

The chief executive of Fonterra, Andrew Ferrier, steps down on Friday after eight years in charge of the country's biggest company. But he's not leaving the dairy industry altogether.

The former sugar industry boss says he plans to split his time between New Zealand and his home country, Canada, where two of his three children are at university, and intends to invest in a dairy farm.

He says he's leaving Fonterra on a high but feels the company deserves more support from New Zealanders.

"I do find it very frustrating, because I know inside how much it hurts us. We're always trying to do the right thing, we're pushing harder, we're spending all kinds of money to make sure farmers are doing the right thing for the environment. We want to do the right thing in the community and bring the returns home."

Mr Ferrier acknowledges that the San Lu milk contamination scandal in China did a lot of damage to Fonterra's name in New Zealand. "We didn't properly anticipate that you could have criminals contaminating a supply chain," he says - so they've changed the way they do things, and now control milk all the way through the supply chain.

Mr Ferrier says he won't work for another dairy company - "Anything I do will be supportive of Fonterra" - but will be exploring business opportunities, including involvement in a dairy partnership, "both because I think it's a good investment and because my heart's in it".