Fonterra posts €110m loss
The largest dairy exporter in the world has released poor annual results amid declining profitability and leadership shake-ups.

New Zealand's largest milk processor, Fonterra, has published accounts showing a €110m net loss after tax for the 2018 financial year. According to local media reports, this is the first loss in the co-op's 17-year history.

The bad result results from a combination of falling profitability, with Fonterra's EBIT falling by 22% in the past year, and exceptional charges related to its overseas partners.

The co-op wrote €247m off the value of its Chinese subsidiary, Beingmate, and paid Danone €131m in compensation for a past food safety scare.

Rising costs

Chief executive Miles Hurrell reported rising costs across the business, from an increase in the farmgate milk price late in the last season – which he said was good to co-op members – to other ingredient, development and support costs.

"There are no two ways about it. These results are disappointing," he wrote in Fonterra's annual report.

The bad result are a consequence of falling profitability and exceptional charges

Chair John Monaghan added that "Beingmate's unacceptable performance over the year has been frustrating".

Fonterra also faced the departure of both its former chief executive Theo Spierings and chair John Wilson in the past financial year.

Russian spies troll GM and glyphosate debate – report
Russian social media accounts linked to disinformation in the 2016 US election have also campaigned against new farming technologies, according to a media investigation.

The Times reports that scores of tweets linking biotechnologies to health scares were posted by fake or robotic accounts managed by Russian organisations.

The messages include "baseless claims" that GM crops and glyphosate-based herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup cause autism, the newspaper found after interviewing academics analysing the Twitter accounts linked to Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Russian interest

Investigations have linked many of the accounts to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organisation allegedly funded by an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Analysts told The Times it was in Russia's interest to direct public opinion against modern agricultural technologies because the Russian industry is less advanced in that field, and it is a topic likely to create division between the US and its European allies.

Read more

GM crops: are we falling behind?

Bayer vows to fight 8,000 glyphosate lawsuits

Farm costs included in French food pricing law
New French legislation aims at restoring balance in the trade of agricultural products, including rules on minimum food prices.

The French parliament has passed legislation introducing a reference to farmers' production costs in minimum food pricing.

The new law states that any contract for the sale of agricultural products must "take into account one of several indicators relative to agricultural costs". However, lawmakers stopped short of defining what those indicators are, asking farmers, processors and retailers to set them through negotiation.

The law also authorises the government to set new rules on promotions and below-cost selling. An industry forum convened by President Emmanuel Macron last year agreed to raise the below-cost selling threshold for food products by 10% and stop aggressive promotions. The government has committed to limiting promotions on food products to a maximum discount of "three for two", as opposed to "two for one" currently.

The legislation also doubles penalties for animal welfare offences and forces pesticide sellers and advisers to operate as separate businesses. Government canteens, including those feeding all French schoolchildren every day, will have to purchase half of their ingredients from organic, local or quality-assured sources by 2022.

Read more

Tesco and Carrefour purchasing deal to start in October

French MPs call for food safety overhaul after Lactalis scandal

100,000 lambs feared dead after New Zealand storm
Farmers face difficult spring weather in New Zealand as lambing and calving are in full swing.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall on New Zealand's North Island earlier this month have killed an estimated 100,000 new-born lambs, an industry analyst told local media.

Mel Croad of AgriHQ told TV New Zealand that individual farmers had lost hundreds of lambs in the storm, and some thousands.

More than 20m lambs are born each year in New Zealand.

Snow storm

A snow storm is now blanketing parts of the country's South Island, causing further stress to farmers and animals. Power outages were reported in the Otago region this Monday.

The region's dairy herds are in the middle of spring calving and New Zealand's milk production peaks in October.

Read more

Fonterra posts €110m loss

‘New Zealand will have less cows and produce less milk in the future'