Federated Farmers dairy chair Willy Leferink says Fonterra farmers will be surprised and upset at the resignation of one of the co-operative's senior managers, in the wake of the contamination crisis.
Gary Romano resigned as managing director of New Zealand Milk Products on Wednesday afternoon.
He was in charge of Fonterra's milk collection and processing operations, and fronted as the company spokesperson during the first few days after Fonterra announced that some whey protein concentrate had been contaminated with botulism-causing spores.
Mr Leferink said farmers will be surprised that Mr Romano had resigned just as inquiries by Fonterra and the Government were getting underway.
He said Mr Romano obviously felt the pressure was too great and decided to go.
Mr Leferink said it's a big loss and farmers liked Mr Romano's straightforward and honest approach and held him in high regard.
Chief executive Theo Spierings said Mr Romano had made a significant contribution during his time at Fonterra and they respect his decision.
Mr Spierings will assume interim responsibility for the day-to-day operations of New Zealand Milk Products.
A former Federated Farmers leader says the resignation has made the situation even more confusing.
Former dairy chair Lachlan McKenzie had called for resignations, but said on Thursday it is sad to see someone as capable as Mr Romano resign.
Because so little is still known about what went wrong, he said the resignation raises more questions than answers.