(Feb. 1) Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has lost another high profile perishables executive.

Danie Kieviet said he will leave his role as Wal-Mart’s general manager for global procurement for South Africa at the end of February. He plans to return to the company he founded, Stellenbosch, South Africa-based FreshWorld Pty. Ltd., which is a supplier for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers.

Kieviet, a former board member of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association and current chairman of PMA’s international council, opened Wal-Mart’s South African procurement office in 2006.

“I put a lot of things together,” he said. “I learned a lot, and hopefully I added value for them. I had a good experience. At this stage in my life, I decided it would be best to go back to the family business.”

When Kieviet was hired, Wayne McKnight was Wal-Mart’s vice president of global procurement. But McKnight resigned, and his last day with the retailer was Feb. 1.

“I don’t think you should read anything sinister into my departure or link it to the departure of any of the others, definitely not,” Kieviet said.

Other notable perishables executives have left Wal-Mart in the past year, including Bob DiPiazza, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Wal-Mart subsidiary Sam’s Club. DiPiazza left the company Feb. 1, 2007. Bruce Peterson resigned a day later as Wal-Mart’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager for perishables.

Peterson, a former PMA chairman, joined Naturipe Farms LLC, Naples, Fla., as president and chief executive officer in August.

Peterson’s former boss, Doug Degn, announced his plans to retire as executive vice president of food, consumables and hardlines merchandising in January 2007. His successor was named, nearly a year later, when Wal-Mart hired former Safeway and Tesco executive Jack Sinclair as executive vice president of grocery merchandise in early January.

Like Kieviet, DiPiazza and Peterson downplayed any links to the departures. DiPiazza said that when he left his job as vice president of perishables at Dominick’s in 1998 he had planned to stay with Wal-Mart for seven years, based in part on the company’s vesting schedule. DiPiazza, another former PMA chairman, stayed for 8½ years.

“Chicago, in my mind and more importantly in my wife’s mind, was home,” said DiPiazza, who now operates St. Charles Ill.-based DiPiazza Consulting Services Inc., working with perishable suppliers and retailers. “It’s going well. It’s challenging and fun. After 32 years in the corporate environment, it’s a refreshing change.”

McKnight, who had been with Wal-Mart since 2004, was out of his office Jan. 31 and could not be reached for comment.

“They had a lot of leadership changes in global sourcing,” DiPiazza said. “I think it was difficult for Wayne to work through all those changes and build the kind of organization he envisioned.”

Wal-Mart’s media relations department did not respond to an interview request before deadline.