Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

Dairy exporter Ornua refuses to clarify how €9.2m pay was shared

Ornua logo
Ornua logo
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The country's largest dairy exporter Ornua has refused to break down the pay of its top executive team, as it emerged nine top bosses shared a pay and pensions pot of €9.2m over the past two years.

It comes as Irish dairy farmers face a challenging year with milk prices plummeting in the new post-quota era.

Ornua is the commercial co-op that markets produce such as the well-known Kerrygold butter brand on behalf of the dairy processors and farmers.

New financial rules saw it disclose senior pay figures in its annual report for the first time - but no breakdown of who gets what pay. It also showed the 14 ­directors - including ­Glanbia Ingredients Ireland's Jim ­Bergin, Dairygold's Jim Woulfe, and other dairy co-op figures - received €509,000 between all of them last year.

This was a 44pc rise since 2013 when €352,000 was paid. An individual breakdown was not provided. Ornua chairman Aaron Forde insisted they have a "strong governance" record at the firm with a remuneration committee in place to report back to the board on pay levels.

"We have a strong governance story to tell here, we have no qualms about that," he said.

"We are the only co-op in Europe to reveal our directors' fees ... if you look at lots of our peers in Europe, they don't reveal the level that we reveal. So we feel we are in good shape in that respect."

It follows a year where pay levels in the agri-sector have been under the spotlight after it emerged the general secretary of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) received close to €1m over two years.

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John Comer, president of the country's second largest farmer body, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), said there was a "balance" to be struck between transparency and sensitivity of figures.

Mr Comer, who is on the Ornua board of directors, said there was "a lot more transparency".

"I understand that to a farmer the figures look very high and farmers are now producing below cost. Having said that, there is a big turnover in Ornua and it is in farmers' interest to attract top level management and drive the business forward so they are in a position to keep the turnover high to give back as much as possible to farmers," he said, adding the remuneration committee frequently reported to the board.

"If I feel at any point in the future that more transparency would serve the farmers better, then that is what I'll be calling for."

Ornua chairman Mr Forde added that they had "gone ­beyond the bare requirements" of new accountancy regulations.

"We've split out the director piece, we've split out the ­performance-related piece. We are merely obliged to disclose one figure. We are on a journey here the same as the business is in terms of governance. We feel we've done quite well in our first year in that respect and that journey will continue but that is as far as we are going at this point in time."

The ICMSA's Pat McCormack urged them to use the €54m profit made by Ornua last year to offer "more support for the dairy farmers who supply them, ultimately own them, and on whom the whole multi-billion euro sectors rests".

Ornua said farmers will share in a €29m bonus this week, including a €14m annual bonus and an additional extra once-off payment of €15m after the sale of their majority stake in US distribution business, DPI Specialty Foods, late last year.

Irish Independent