Statement of the Chairman of the Supervisory Board
Looking back at 2017, it is encouraging to note that the market conditions in the agricultural sector in Europe were better than in 2016. Thanks to the on the whole higher prices for agricultural products in 2017, our customers’ financial situation was generally better than in 2016. This is part of the reason why, especially in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, more high-quality feed was purchased to increase performance on farm. In the United Kingdom, the uncertainty still rife as to the consequences of Brexit continued to affect the agricultural sector, as a result of which many farmers still did not seem prepared to invest in increasing their livestock for their farming business. Sadly, the layers sector was affected, primarily in the Netherlands, in the period under review by the Fipronil affair, a particularly regrettable situation for the individual poultry farmers involved.
The members of the Supervisory Board (the ‘Board’) were informed during meetings with the Executive Board of ForFarmers on market developments and the performance of ForFarmers. The Board devoted special attention to the causes of the underperformance in the United Kingdom. The Board shares the opinion of the Executive Board that in 2018 additional attention is still needed for the United Kingdom at a director level, given the developments in the market and internal organisation.
In the period under review, ForFarmers has again pursued efforts in all countries, through cooperation with customers, staff, partners and suppliers, to improve returns on farm as part of the ‘For the Future of Farming’ mission. The Board is delighted to see that this approach is being consistently adhered to in all countries in which ForFarmers is active. Further progress was also made with the implementation of the Horizon 2020 strategy. The Board is therefore pleased with the group results achieved in 2017.
Over the course of the year, the Board regularly discussed the subject of further developing the strategic pathway for Horizon 2020 with the Executive Committee. The items that were particularly examined were the shift in thinking in terms of volume to value, and the potential developments in the market or the sector that could influence the longer-term strategy. As part of this, a special strategy day was held in May that included, among other things, speaking on the importance of big data in the agricultural sector. Steps were also made towards monitoring and establishing priorities for strategic projects to promote their successful implementation.
One of the high-priority sustainability goals concerns safe working conditions. The number of lost time incidents (LTIs) has not yet fallen to the desired level. The number of LTIs relating to in-house ForFarmers staff on factory sites has decreased. Unfortunately, in the period under review some LTIs occurred involving external workforce, on farm and on the road. A very low point was at the beginning of 2018 when ForFarmers lost an employee due to a fatal incident. The Board supports the initiatives of ForFarmers in the area of safety and especially the project to improve safety on farm. The Board hopes that all these initiatives will lead to a reduction in the number of LTIs and a business culture in which safety forms part of the DNA.
Composition of the Supervisory Board and Executive Board
On 26 April 2017, Cees de Jong was appointed as member of the Board for a period of four years. With his background and experience, he makes a valuable addition to the composition of the Board.
Iain Gardner stepped down as COO of ForFarmers in the United Kingdom as of 31 December 2017. He is succeeded by Steven Read, who—thanks to his previous roles—is familiar with the British organisation and market, as well as with ForFarmers’ Supply Chain activities. Iain Gardner has played a vital role in the implementation of the ForFarmers strategy in the United Kingdom. For this, the Board is very grateful and wishes him all the best for the future.
In the next general meeting of shareholders, I will step down as Board member. I look back on the progress of the Company in the last few years with justifiable pride. I am especially pleased to see that the interests of customers have always remained at the forefront. In advance of my departure in April, I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to all my fellow Board members, employees and directors for a pleasurable cooperation and I hope that ForFarmers will continue to deliver more valuable contributions to the ‘Future of Farming’.
Speaking on my behalf and on behalf of the other members of the Board, I would like to thank all employees for a year in which their engagement, dedication and cooperation have again contributed to the results achieved. Positive efforts and a good working environment are crucial to the implementation of the Horizon 2020 strategy. On behalf of the Supervisory Board, I would therefore like to give special thanks to the Executive Committee and staff for their input in 2017. Finally, I would like to wish my successor all the best in this great organisation.
Chairman of the ForFarmers Supervisory Board