Silver Fern Farms, one of New Zealand’s largest red meat suppliers, has announced the departure of CEO Simon Limmer.

Limmer is stepping down from the Dunedin-based meat cooperative after five years in the role. However, he will remain “involved” with the business in a “strategic” capacity, according to a statement from Silver Fern Farms.

The former Zespri kiwi fruit executive is joining the New Zealand wine company Indevin Group as its CEO early next year.

However, Silver Fern Farms said Limmer will stay on at the co-op as a search for his replacement commences, a process that is likely to “take until the start of 2024”.

Silver Fern Farms joint chairman Rob Hewett said: “On behalf of the board…I have regretfully accepted Simon’s resignation. However, I am also very grateful for his immense contribution to the business and our industry over the last five and a half years.

“While the company’s financial performance, investment and returns have all increased under Simon’s tenure, one of the biggest contributions he has made has been to the development of culture and leadership.”

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The co-op is jointly owned – on a 50-50-basis – by its farmer shareholders and China meat processor Shanghai Maling Aquarius. The latter is part of the Shanghai-based food and beverages group Bright Food.

Limmer said: “I’ve always felt that this length of time is about the right tenure for a chief executive, but I am really passionate about Silver Fern Farms and the industry. I feel that now’s the time for an injection of new energy and perspective into the business.”

He added: “I’m conscious that global market conditions have created some immediate challenges. However, these will pass and I’m confident in our strategy and ability to see these challenges through and continue creating new forms of value for our shareholders.”

Silver Fern Farms, which supplies beef, including grass-fed, along with lamb and venison, reported net profit before tax of NZ$94.3m ($55.6m) in the fiscal year to 31 December, up 84% on the previous 12 months.

Profit after tax amounted to NZ$94.1m, an increase of 83%, according to the co-op’s annual report.