• More than 25 years' experience in the global dairy industry.
• Born 1964 in the Netherlands.
• Bachelor of Arts in Food Technology/Biotechnology.
• Master of Business Administration, Glasgow University.
• Acting chief executive of Royal Friesland Foods in 2007.
• Oversees merger with Campina in 2008.
• Ran own company in Netherlands focusing on corporate strategy, and mergers and acquisitions, in fast-moving consumer goods.
• Fonterra chief executive in 2011.
Kiwi farmers 'best able to cope'
Fonterra has copped some flak for its performance, but chief executive Theo Spierings said the co-operative dairy giant would not deviate from its current course.
Next week Fonterra's board will meet to review its current milk price forecast of $5.25 a kg of milk solids. Analysts expect to see big downward revision of the forecast - some to as low as $3.75 a kg.
Fonterra is also expected to update the market on its financial position, production and progress with its extensive cost cutting exercise aimed at making the company quicker on its feet.
Spierings, in an interview with the Herald, said there was a risk of farmers, and the country getting bogged down with the negativity surrounding low dairy prices, which have nosedived since hitting a record $8.40 a kg in 2013/4 to $4.40 in 2014/5.
He said the current price on world dairy market was a demand problem, and not one of supply. He was also confident there was not a lot of inventory lying around in the world's warehouses.
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Likewise, he did not expect to see significant increases in supply from the three biggest dairy exporters - New Zealand, the European Union and the United States.
Spierings said he expected prices to improve in the second half.
He refuted criticism that the co-operative had not done enough to add value and said criticisms, made in the wake of its moves to cut costs and reduce staff, were "a bit out of balance".
Spierings talked about moving the business towards the "new world" as, like many other multi-national corporates, adapted to a new environment.
The world dairy trade went through a period of relative stability in the dairy trade from the 1990s to early 2000s, when protectionism and stockpiling was commonplace.
Since 2006, when European Union took off subsidies and China emerged as a big player since then volatility has emerged as a big factor 60 percent variation in whole milk prides form 2006 to 2015.
"It gets a bit out of balance right now - it becomes a Fonterra story and its much more of a global dairy story, and dairy is so important for the country," he said.
At the company's first half results presentation in March, Fonterra announcing a dividend forecast range to 20c to 30c from a previous range of 25c to 35c a share for the current year, alongside an unexpectedly large 16 per cent fall in its first half net profit to $183 million.
"I believe the farmers who are best able to cope with these massive swings are the New Zealand farmers," Spierings said.
"We have that ability and we have that lowest variable cost of production in the world," he said.
Over the last 20 years, emerging markets had driven volume growth on the dairy scene. The demographic of high population growth and an expanding middle class remained intact.
Fonterra's critics say the company has not done enough on the value-added side, but Spierings said that in the last five years production had gone up by about 26 per cent - equivalent to the entire production of Belarus - with an average payout to farmers of $6.00 a kg over that time.
"Our farmers are anxious but they understand the messages. I'm not saying that it's rosy, because it's not."
Progressively less production has gone on to the GlobaDairyTrade auction platform - 40 per cent of its production in 2012 to 30 per cent in 2014. The proportion is expected to drop to 23 per cent by 2018. Ingredients sales are expected to go from 49 per cent in 2014 to 51 per cent by 2018.
In foodservice, the proportion is forecast to go from 6 per cent to 10 per cent over the same comparative periods.
In theory, farmers should be in line for an increased dividend when milk prices are weak, as they represent a lower input cost for the co-op. Spierings acknowledged that there was friction between the milk price and dividend, "but only for a certain period of time".
He said pulling back on the supply side would be "shooting ourselves in the foot" because that choice of protein would soon be taken over by competitors.
"I will never go into the negative and destroy value because in the very dark periods, the people who stand up, have a plan and who drive forward come out the strongest, and far ahead of the rest."