MURRAY Goulburn’s new CEO, Ari Mervis, completed the co-op’s largest-ever supplier meeting schedule last week with a sweep through Gippsland.
As part of 24 meetings in a month, he met dairy farmers at Orbost and Maffra last Tuesday, Yarram and Leongatha last Wednesday and Warragul last Thursday night, with a visit to Farm World also slotted in on Thursday afternoon.
It was Mr Mervis’ first visit to Farm World.
He has, however, attended a number of agricultural shows.
“This is essentially a meet and greet today. It’s an opportunity to meet our suppliers and a lot of them do tend to here, so it’s a good opportunity,” he told the Sentinel-Times while chatting to visitors to the MG stand at Farm World.
The meeting at Leongatha, at 7.30pm in the football clubrooms last Wednesday, was attended by 140 people and was a polite, constructive affair, according to Mr Mervis.
Local dairy farmers, in turn, say they were impressed with Mr Mervis, while also welcoming John Spark as the firm’s first non-dairy farmer chairman, replacing Yanakie’s Phil Tracy from last Saturday.
“We had a constructive, open, direct and engaging discussion. It was honest, open and polite,” Mr Mervis said afterwards.
But there was no pre-cursor to the crucial release soon of a report on the future of MG’s factories including those at Maffra and Leongatha in Gippsland.
“We didn’t say anything about that. We’re doing a footprint review which will be out soon. It will be presented to a board meeting first,” he said.
The ‘footprint review’, which will be MG’s response to the loss of almost 30 per cent of its supply, is expected to bring about sweeping changes based on its best-value products.
Leongatha is expected to survive the review but Maffra may not. The review will however propose a range of changes which will affect all parts of MG’s operations.
Local farmers say they aren’t concerned about the review but are more concerned about a return to profitability for themselves and also for MG.
Mr Mervis joined MG in February 2017 as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. He commenced his career in South Africa and was previously Managing Director SABMiller, Asia Pacific and Chief Executive Officer, Carlton & United Breweries and was responsible for overseeing operations in China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia.
Ari has over 27 years’ experience in the beverage industry.
Mr Spark, has an agribusiness background with five years as chairman of animal nutrition group Ridley Corporation from 2010 to 2015 and the ownership, until recently, of an Angus cattle farm in Victoria.
He had 15 years at Ferrier Hodgson that included the successful restructuring and return to profitability of many large Australian companies.
He is a director of Newcrest Mining and had a previous stint on the board of Macarthur Coal.