The demise of Westland as a cooperative contains a lesson for all business, says Roz Henry, the new Cooperative Business NZ chief executive.
That’s the message Yili Group chief executive Jianqiu Zhang had for Westland Milk’s farmer suppliers following the Chinese company taking ownership of the West Coast dairy processor on August 1.
Westland’s former board has resigned and Yili is retaining the current management for the time being to ensure a smooth handover.
Zhang, who attended a handover ceremony in Auckland earlier this month, told Rural News that Yili was a big, responsible and trusted company.
“We would like our farmer suppliers to trust us and we will bring benefits for all of you,” he said.
Westland’s former shareholders have now received a cash payment of $3.41/share, a 10-year guaranteed competitive milk payout plus guarantees that all milk will be collected.
Zhang says Yili is happy to have acquired Westland and feels a strong sense of responsibility towards farmer suppliers.
“We are obliged to improve operations, reduce costs and lift efficiency to bring more benefits to stakeholders.”
Zhang points to Yili’s success with Oceania Dairy Ltd, South Canterbury, which started processing milk in 2014.
“This is how we work through all our projects -- pushing the concept of mutual benefit and ending with a win-win situation for all stakeholders.”
Zhang says Westland’s acquisition is only “a small step” in Yili’s globalisation strategy. The Chinese conglomerate plans to expand in the US, Europe and Asia.
Speaking at the handover ceremony in Auckland, Zhang alluded to Westland forming part of its “dairy silk road”.
Zhang says NZ’s strong dairying tradition, high quality raw milk and well regulated industry, and Yili’s access to global resources and markets, will strengthen the ties between Asia and the Oceania region.
“We intend to use our global assets of innovation, excellence and quality to create a ‘dairy silk road’ linking our two regions on a trade journey that will benefit us all.”
The ‘dairy silk road’ echoes the idea of a trade corridor promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping -- to reopen channels between China and its neighbours in the west, most notably Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Zhang says Westland’s acquisition can be seen as a vast dairy bridge crossing the Pacific Ocean, helping the world to share healthy products.