GrainCorp CEO Alison Watkins has decided to leave GrainCorp after Archer Daniels Midland's bid to buy the Australian grain merchant was blocked - and she has accepted a job at the parent of canned foods group SPC Ardmona.

Watkins had backed ADM's planned takeover of GrainCorp, which was rejected by the Australian government last week. Australia's Federal Treasure, Joe Hockey, said the US agribusiness group's takeover of GrainCorp was "not in the national interest".

Watkins will join Coca-Cola Amatil, the Australia-based food and drinks group, in March, becoming group MD.

She had planned to leave GrainCorp when the business was acquired by ADM. Watkins said: "I had planned to leave the company at the time control passed over to ADM. Given last week's unexpected developments, I feel it is in the best interests of GrainCorp, our people and customers that I move on now and allow the Board to find new leadership to take the business forward into its new phase."

GrainCorp chairman Don Taylor said it was unsurprising Watkins would wish to move on after the sale of the company to ADM was turned down.

"We respect her decision to move on, particularly when a change of control in GrainCorp was broadly expected to occur over the coming weeks," Taylor said. "The expectation in the investment community was that ADM's offer for GrainCorp would be approved and effected in the near term. In that context, it is not surprising that an executive of Alison's calibre has attracted interest and had new opportunities presented to her."

Taylor will become GrainCorp's executive chairman as the company starts to look for a replacement for Watkins.

At Coca-Cola Amatil, which counts canned foods business SPC Ardmona among its assets, Watkins will replace long-serving MD Terry Davis.

"I believe my career and experience to date puts me in an excellent position to lead CCA in its next chapter of growth, building on the successes achieved under the leadership of Terry Davis," Watkins said.