Gary Romano. Photo /Dean Purcell
The Fonterra contamination scare has claimed its first
scalp with Gary Romano, Managing Director NZ Milk Products,
resigning with immediate effect.
Chief executive Theo Spierings said he had accepted Mr
"Gary has made a significant contribution during his time at
Fonterra and we respect his decision,'' Mr Spierings said.
Mr Spierings will assume interim responsibility for the
day-to-day operations of NZ Milk Products.
Mr Romano fronted up for Fonterra to New Zealand media while
Mr Spierings went to China immediately following the scare.
Mr Romano's focus was to "drive profitability through a
customer-centric approach to business that delivers
world-class standards in productivity, quality, safety and
service,'' Fonterra said on its website
The contamination was confined to 38 metric tonnes of whey
protein concentrate (WPC80) manufactured at Fonterra's
Hautapu plant near Cambridge and first picked up at a plant
in Australia. It was used in the manufacture of infant
formula, juice and dairy beverages, yoghurt, body building
powder, and animal stock food.
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The threat to New Zealand's reputation with Chinese consumers
has put the Government into overdrive to head off the risk,
and it's fast-tracking legislation to allow a speedy inquiry
so Prime Minister John Key can front up in China to allay
The government investigation is one of four, with Fonterra
holding two probes and the Ministry for Primary Industries
also holding an inquiry.
Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund, which gives outside
investors access to the dairy company's dividend stream, fell
0.4 percent to $6.90.
BAN COULD LAST FOR MONTHS
Meanwhile, Russian media reports say the Russian, Kazakhstan
and Belarus ban on Fonterra dairy imports due to the botulism
scare may not be lifted until next year.
The news stories also suggest the bans were cemented after
New Zealand Embassy officials last week failed to assure
Russian officials of the safety of Fonterra products a week
The bans by the three former Soviet republics which work
together on trade issues were confirmed yesterday after
initial conflicting reports about Russia's block days
Russian news agency Interfax quoted Federal Veterinary and
Phyto-Sanitary Oversight Service head Sergei Dankvert as
saying the ban would continue until the regulator had
received relevant information from New Zealand authorities
and decided on inspections of New Zealand suppliers.
However, "inspection lists are closed," for this year, Mr
"So now only next year", he added.
Another report on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website quoted
Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection
(Rospotrebnadzor) as saying the ban, imposed on August 3 was
"justified" and Russian officials consultations with New
Zealand Embassy officials in Moscow on August 7 "further
proved the correctness of this decision".
"No exhaustive answers were given during the consultations to
the questions previously posed by Rospotrebnadzor, or to
those posed in the course of the meeting," the regulators
said in a statement.
Labour's trade spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said the Russian
reports suggested the Government and Trade Minister Tim
Groser's response was inadequate.
"A Trade Minister must act quickly and effectively on all
issues that affect our export markets", he said.
"In this situation I would have made sure officials were on
the ground, sorting this out. I would demand to know the
status of any ban within 24 hours. Then I would travel to
those countries and sort out the issues."
Mr Groser and Primary Industries Nathan Guy said officials
were working closely with Russian authorities to provide the
reassurance they needed over New Zealand dairy products.
"MPI and MFAT, along with the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow,
are working to reopen the market, including by meeting with
key food safety and health officials in Moscow", Mr Guy said.
He said no potentially contaminated product had been exported
to Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus from New Zealand, "however
Russia has taken a precautionary approach, and we are now
working to reassure the appropriate agencies of all the steps
being taken by MPI and MFAT on this matter".
After yesterday saying dairy trade to Russia last year was
$213 million, officials today said the figure was $106
million, while trade with Kazakhstand was $310,600. Trade
with Belarus was virtually nil.