The ZESPRI Annual General Meeting, held today in Tauranga, attracted over 500 grower shareholders and interested parties.
Grower shareholders came to listen to ZESPRI Directors and executive team members present the financial performance of the company over the past 12 months and to hear about how ZESPRI will maximise grower returns in the challenging year ahead.
Chairman John Loughlin and CEO Lain Jager presented the 2008/09 highlights in the context of the past 10 years of ZESPRI history. ZESPRI has successfully doubled the size of the market and the export earnings with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8%.
The 2008/09 season celebrated the record breaking production achievement of 100 million trays of New Zealand Kiwifruit and fruit and service payments to the industry of $800 million. A brilliant result for growers in the current economic climate. This translates directly into a final dividend payment for growers next month of 56 cents per share, which brings the full year dividend to 98.41 cents per share; up 22 percent on last year’s dividend and again represents 100 percent of available profits.
Highlights of the meeting included:
- Growers voiced their overwhelming support for the industry structure and its importance for the future. There was strong criticism of recent initiatives by 1% shareholder Turners & Growers, whose representative at the meeting declined an offer from the Chairman to speak;
- Industry and grower excitement about the ZESPRI and Plant & Food Research New Cultivar Breeding and Evaluation Programme and the allocation of trial sites across the NZ growing regions;
- An announcement regarding the expansion of the new cultivar breeding and evaluation programme, requiring an additional 13.5 ha across NZ. This follows promising results from orchard, supply chain and consumer trials of the four most advanced varieties under evaluation. Leading pre-commercial grower block trial sites have been selected and grafting of the budwood will now take place. This was received with much excitement and enthusiasm from growers; and
- A proposal to the industry that the net ZESPRI commission should be further reduced by approximately $10 million annually to around 7% of net sales. ZESPRI’s current commission as a percentage of net revenue is 7.7% of net sales and has reduced from approximately 11% in 1999. The proposal for a further reduction recognises the need to equitably share the superior returns earned from the industry’s structure between growers and shareholders.
One key agenda item was the election of Directors to the ZESPRI Board following the retirement, by rotation, of three Directors – Keith Thorpe, Tony de Farias and Graham Cathie. Keith Thorpe, a Director for the past six years and Graham Cathie, a Director for the past eight years, both advised that they would not be seeking re-election and officially completed their term at the AGM.
The following appointments have been confirmed:
Vacancy 1 - Ray Sharp
Vacancy 2 - Tony de Farias
Vacancy 3 - Tony Marks
The ZESPRI Chairman, John Loughlin, officially welcomes the Directors to the Board. “On behalf of the ZESPRI Board and executive team, we look forward to working together to progress a number of key initiatives including the ZESPRI new cultivar program and market expansion over the coming years,” said Mr Loughlin.