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February 1, 2012
By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today Western and Online Editor google + 

**Extended interview highlighted in blue.

Andrei Mikhalevsky discusses the industry’s offshore prospects


As managing director of global ingredients and food services at Fonterra, Mikhalevsky developed many international customer


It took a yearlong, worldwide search, but the board of directors of California Dairies, Inc. (CDI), finally found its new chief executive officer in New Zealand’s Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd.

On Jan. 1, Andrei Mikhalevsky succeeded retiring Richard Cotta as president and CEO of the third largest dairy cooperative in the nation.

Born and raised in the U.S., Mikhalevsky is the third CEO in CDI’s 12-year history. He’s an experienced industry professional who has traveled the world marketing dairy products.

Just 10 days into the job, the former Fonterra executive sat down with Dairy Today at CDI’s headquarters in Visalia, Calif., to discuss his new role and the industry’s market prospects.


Dairy Today: Why leave Fonterra and take on the management of a California dairy cooperative?

Mikhalevsky: I have always had an interest in global and international business and have worked a good part of my career outside of the country. At this point in my career, I wanted to work in the U.S. industry again. There’s a unique opportunity for the U.S. industry right now in the world market, and I want to be a part of that. So, I looked for a company in the U.S. that I thought was an excellent company and an excellent fit, and the California Dairies opportunity came forward.

Dairy Today: What do you expect your biggest challenges to be?

Mikhalevsky: The biggest challenges are participating and positioning in the global market, ensuring we have access to the export market, and ensuring that pricing delivers the best return back to members.

Dairy Today: Isn’t CDI already there?

Mikhalevsky: We are. But the U.S. industry—not just California Dairies—has developed an industry that produces products that are more on a scale toward the commodity end as opposed to true value-added products. Improved profitability is on the higher end of the scale. So, while we currently participate in the export market, it’s going to be important to decide how we want to participate and with what products.

Dairy Today: How critical are exports to future industry growth?

Mikhalevsky: Dairy exports are critical to the U.S. industry and to California Dairies, and maybe even more so for any dairy producer in California. First, growth rates here are not exceptionally high. Second, as California is positioned on one coast, it’s very difficult to get products to the East Coast, so there are high transportation costs.

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - February 2012

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