Fonterra directors have selected Zespri chairman Peter McBride as the dairy co-op's chairman-elect.

Under Fonterra's constitution, its chairman is selected by the board from within its pool of seven elected Farmer directors.

McBride, an existing Fonterra director, will replace current Fonterra chairman John Monaghan when he retires as a director at Fonterra's annual meeting in November, Fonterra said in a statement.

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Monaghan, who farms in the Wairarapa, became chairman in 2018 after the now-deceased chairman John Wilson stepped down for health reasons.

Chief executive Theo Spierings left the co-op that year and Monaghan and new chief executive Miles Hurrell then set about re-organising the co-operative after it reported its first-ever loss of $196m in that year.

Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Peter McBride on The Country below:

Monaghan said that the early announcement of McBride as chairman-elect was part of the board's commitment to planned governance succession.

"We have made significant progress over the past two years in our effort to refresh our co-op's purpose, strategy and culture. It is important to the board that we provide stability while Miles and his team continue to embed the changes and maintain our momentum," he said.

"Making this decision now also gives our farmer-owners transparency of leadership prior to this years' director elections and allows Peter and I a period of handover before I retire from the board in November," Monaghan said.

McBride grew up on a dairy farm near Te Aroha and, with Linda, runs the family farm milking 950 cows in the South Waikato.

When Monaghan retires in November it will mark almost two decades of service to the co-op - the last 12 years as a director.

"He will leave behind a board culture of shared responsibility, which is something I will look to build on as the new chairman," McBride said.

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Units in Fonterra last traded on the NZX at $3.72 - having lost 16c or 4.1 per cent over the last 12 months.