29 Mar 2012

Fonterra steps up focus on Asia, Latin America

7:48 pm on 29 March 2012

The nation's biggest company, Fonterra, says it's about to focus more strongly on "emerging" markets in Asia and Latin America.

The dairy giant has released a revised version of its growth strategy, and says demand is outstripping supply among aspiring middle classes in China, Asia and Latin America, and it also eyeing extra effort in the Middle East and Africa.

The strategic change-up was announced as the company confirmed its forecast payout to dairy farmers for the current season, would remain between $6.75 and $6.85 a kilogram of milksolids.

Last season, it paid farmers over 16% more - a record $8.25 per kilo.

When Fonterra earlier this month downgraded those projected cheques for farmers for the current dairy season, it blamed rising global milk supplies and the effects of a stronger New Zealand dollar on the profits it brings home.

But chief executive Theo Spierings said when interim results were released on Thursday that global dairy prices remained relatively strong despite a recent slide as more milk production by rivals reached markets.

At home, bumper milk production boosted Fonterra's half year profits by 18% to $346 million for the six months to the end of January - compared with the same period a year ago - and said most of this boost came from a 44% increase in the bottom line of its ingredients business, to $293 million.

Sales rose by more than 7% and good farming conditions in spring and early summer boosted its milk collection to a record 1 billion kilograms of milksolids for the season so far - 10% more than this time a year ago.