Wednesday 28 September 2016

Donal O’Donovan: It is vital that farmers can make decisions about getting best value

Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30

Dairy Farm
Dairy Farm

There's a pot of gold at Ornua, and it's not made of butter.

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Yesterday the company, which successfully markets Irish dairy products including Kerrygold butter to domestic and international consumers, outlined its own executive pay levels for the first time.

The total pay for the top nine managers at Ornua last year was €4.4m, including pensions and benefits.

That works out at close to half a million euro each, though it seems safe to assume that chief executive Kevin Lane was paid significantly more than his ninth most senior executive .

However, despite pledges of transparency from Ornua, previously known as the Irish Dairy Board, they refused to disclose the individual pay packets of top executive staff.

Ornua did disclose that its top nine executives received €4.4m last year, or in excess of €1m each on average over 2014 and 2015.

The total pay and pensions fell from the €4.8m paid out in 2014 as performance-related bonuses and incentives had been reduced.

By comparison, Glanbia's Siobhan Talbot took home a pay packet of €1.6m in 2014. Kerry's Stan McCarthy made €4.23m in 2015.

Both Kerry and Glanbia are bigger businesses than Ornua, and we have long known what the heads of big public listed companies are paid - thanks to stock exchange rules.

But under new rules Ornua had to provide details in its annual report of the total pay packages of its nine most senior executives.

Despite previously being called the Irish Dairy Board, Ornua is a private enterprise.

Taxpayers' money is not at play - but Ornua is ultimately owned by a combination of the country's biggest dairy co-ops, and in turn owned by thousands of farmers.

And they do have a right to know how much of their money is supporting managers' salaries.

As shareholders, it is vital that as they can make informed decisions about whether they think they are getting value.

The figures released for the first time yesterday are a good start, but ultimately it makes sense for Ornua to provide the same level of detail about the pay of its most senior executives as its stock market-listed peers.

That would mean individual breakdowns of the full details of all of the pay and benefits of its most senior managers.

Irish Independent

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