‘Farmers like to be in control of their own businesses’

Farmers place a huge importance on ownership and prefer to be in control of their own businesses, according to the Chairman of Glanbia Co-operative Society, Henry Corbally.

Corbally was speaking following the announcement that Glanbia Co-op shareholders had passed a number of proposals to establish a joint venture, which is to be known as Glanbia Ireland.

The creation of Glanbia Ireland is subject to an approval vote by Glanbia PLC’s independent shareholders at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) next Monday, May 22.

The Chairman of Glanbia Co-op was delighted that its shareholders had voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking a majority stake in Glanbia’s consumer and agri businesses.

It’s a historic day for our co-op and the proposed formation of Glanbia Ireland is an exciting development for Glanbia farmers.

“Farmers basically like the co-op model. They like ownership. They like to be in control of their own businesses. They know that there will always be problems; the push and pull of prices will always be there.

“But ownership and control is important. Our relationship with the PLC is still very much intact. We own a very large chunk of the PLC – 31.5%. That gives us a major say in the PLC; it gives us a presence on the board,” Corbally said.

Expecting a ‘positive result’

Prior to yesterday’s meeting, Corbally had called on all eligible shareholders to come out and vote; he admitted there had been an air of positivity leading up to the vote.

“I’m delighted with the result; I’m very happy that our shareholders have agreed with the proposals that we have brought forward. Our shareholders are, essentially, the ultimate arbiters of what happens.

We were expecting a positive result, but you can never assume anything; a vote is a vote. People come and they are entitled to vote whatever way they like.

“I had asked for a positive turnout; the mood in the room was for a positive response. When we met at our shareholder meetings around the country we had a great level of engagement,” he said.

Approximately 2,400 shareholders voted on the proposals; close to 90% of those present were in agreement that each of the proposals should be carried.

However, despite these proposals being carried, there was some level of discussion at the meeting.

“There were questions and there were comments. People will always bring up sectional interests; that’s only right and normal.

“While we have a shareholder group who are very much in agreement, that’s not to say that there aren’t challenges and that they won’t challenge the board. I’m sure they always have and I’m sure that they always will,” Corbally said.

Meanwhile, shareholders also passed plans to distribute approximately €140 million to all co-op members with a ‘share spin-out’ and through a Member Support Fund.

‘Glanbia Co-op is in a strong position’

The board of Glanbia Co-op, as well as the council and representative structure within Glanbia, believed that the passing of these proposals would put the co-op in a very strong position moving forward, Corbally added.

We felt that more ownership and control of our farmer-facing businesses here in Ireland was very important.

“At this meeting we have had a resounding agreement from our shareholder farmers. We feel tremendous justification in the proposals that we brought forward.

“We’re all proud of what Glanbia has achieved in recent years and the decisions taken today will ensure that the co-op is in a very strong position to face the future with confidence.

“In the US we are very much a nutritional company and a food company here in Ireland; but basically we are here to feed the world. We are here to turn our farmers’ produce into viable food, that we can sell at a reasonable profit and pass back as much of that as we can to our Glanbia farmer shareholders,” he said.

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