Fonterra is a co-operative owned by 11,000 New Zealand dairy farmers. It is the world's leading exporter of dairy products and responsible for more than a third of international dairy trade.
Last Monday (a public holiday) Fonterra celebrated its 10th birthday by hosting free family days out throughout the country.
My friend Chris and I (both former employees of a dairy company that is now part of the giant co-operative) went along to join in the local celebrations. A lovely day, at a lovely venue. Not much for a couple of oldies like us, but we wandered around and watched the youngsters having lots of fun.
I read there were 10,000 sausages ordered but the cooks were hard pressed to keep up with the crowds:
Loved the No Shooting sign in the midst of all the activity:
A short distance away was a quiet spot to sit with a cup of coffee:
Lots of games for kids. This one involved teams of five racing to fill up the freezer at the far end of the course with all those milk bottles:
Today we need that many empty bottles to collect as much milk as we can from the farm milk vat before it is spilled down the drain. How's that for a sad sight?
Far from the celebratory mood on Monday, today Fonterra is expecting to waste about $20 million of milk a day until a break in the gas pipeline, that services nearly all the top half of the North Island, is repaired.
Fonterra has been collecting about 35 million litres of milk daily in the affected areas, and now only has capacity to process around five million litres.
This breakdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for dairy farmers, who are at the height of a record “spring flush”, as the new milking season is known in the industry.
As I understand it, the cost of the loss of production is spread across all Fonterra shareholders, so farmers get paid for the lost milk but the overall loss is factored into the payout at the end of the season.