Embattled dairy co-operative Fonterra has slapped a pay freeze on its top-earning executives.

Chief executive Miles Hurrell has emailed staff that all salaried employees on individual contracts earning more than $100,000 will not be getting annual pay increases in the year ahead.

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More than 6000 of Fonterra's 22,000 staff were on salaries of $100,000 and over, according to the company's 2018 annual report.

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It had also been decided that bonuses for the short term incentive scheme or an NZMP business sales incentive plan would not be paid in the 2019 year, Hurrell said.

Last month the Herald revealed that former chief executive Theo Spierings received an incentive scheme payment of $4.67 million when he left the job in August last year, despite the business soon after disclosing its first ever net annual loss - of $196m.

The payment meant the Dutchman pocketed $43 million in his seven years in the job.

Fonterra revealed the final payment ahead of its scheduled disclosure in the upcoming 2019 annual report under pressure for more information, triggered by a Herald report that Spierings was in line for another payout under a historic incentive scheme.

Fonterra's top earners will not be getting pay rises. Photo / File.
Fonterra's top earners will not be getting pay rises. Photo / File.

Hurrell said salaried employees under the $100,000 pay level would still get a pay review.

There would be no impact on waged staff who are part of a collective agreement.

The world's biggest exporter will publish its annual results on September 12 after a shock asset writedown forecast of up to $860 million.

The company is anticipating a loss of $590m-$675m.

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It has refused to say if there have been redundancies as a result of the ongoing internal business review and reset that unearthed the need for the asset writedowns.

In his email to staff, Hurrell said it had been "a challenging year for all of us".

"We are making good progress on our plan to turn our business around, and while we're not there yet, I want to acknowledge and thank you for all the hard work you have been putting in to help lift our performance and reset the business for our future success."

The pay measures were among "some tough calls are still needed to put us on the right path", Hurrell said.

"While some of you won't be surprised by this decision, I understand it is difficult news to hear, especially when we've been working incredibly hard."