New Zealand First Cabinet Minister Shane Jones has again put the boot into the country's largest company, calling out Fonterra's top brass after its lacklustre financial results this morning.
Jones, who is the Regional Economic Development Minister, said New Zealand is at "peak cow" and the dairy co-op needs to understand that fact.
Although he admitted that some people might find it unusual for a cabinet minister to comment so publicly on Fonterra, Jones said his popularity in rural New Zealand increases every time he speaks out against the dairy giant.
His broadside attack comes after Fonterra revealed it was predicting a $590m – $675 million loss; this would be the co-op's second largest loss since its inception almost 20 years ago.
It announced massive write-downs of its assets and its chief executive, Miles Hurrell, said no dividends would be paid to shareholders this financial year.
Speaking to the Herald, Jones put the blame of the poor results squarely in the lap of Fonterra's management and board.
Specifically, he called out the co-op's former chief executive, Theo Spierings, for focusing too much on overseas markets and neglecting New Zealand.
Fonterra's South American and Chinese ventures, which were a major source of financial angst for the co-op and led to tens of millions of dollars in losses, were a particular problem, Jones said.
Jones accused Fonterra executives of being "corporate eunuchs totally incapable of any economic procreation."
"I am very concerned about the future viability of Fonterra."
He said there would "without a doubt" be more losses in the future.
"While they might understand what comes out of a cow's udder, they have precious little conception of what a balance sheet or a cash flow looks like in the face of international challenges."
He said Fonterra's leadership need to understand that New Zealand is at "peak cow" – whereby the country has reached the limit as to how many cows can be sustained.
Today's results were a "wakeup call for Fonterra and farming leadership," he said.
This is not the first time Jones has attacked Fonterra.
Last year, he called for the resignation of Spierings. After Spierings did resign, he called for its former chairman, the late John Wilson, to resign as well.
He said today that many people from regional New Zealand have encouraged him to "speak out" as a consequence of Fonterra's result today.
"[Some people] might say it's an odd occurrence for cabinet ministers to comment on Fonterra.
"But I have found my popularity increases immensely among provincial stakeholders when I make these calls."
He said both he and NZ First leader, and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters have been making these calls for years and today he has been proved right.
Asked for a comment, Fonterra directed the Herald back to a media release it sent out this morning.