16 Sep 2015

Silver Fern farmer fears loss of ownership

11:41 am on 16 September 2015

A farmer shareholder of Silver Fern Farms is urging others to vote against the proposal of a partnership with China's biggest meat processor.

The New Zealand farmer co-operative announced yesterday that Shanghai Maling Aquarius Group, a subsidiary of Bright Foods, is to invest $261 million for 50 percent control of Silver Fern Farms.

The merger is subject to Silver Fern Farms shareholder approval, with at least 50 percent needed.

The company says it could complete the transaction without shareholder approval but it is a major decision and it does not want to jeopardise its farmer supply base.

Farmer shareholder Alan Richardson said farmers would lose control of the co-operative under this proposal.

"It's important that farmers realise there are other options there ... and we need to look at those New Zealand-based options before we go down this track.

He believed farmers were "livid" and many would fight the deal.

"There is a lot of cash being offered, and some farmers will take that cash, but I think the majority of New Zealand farmers will realise they're in for the long term, and in the long term we're much better off having ownership and control of our industry."

However a Canterbury farmer said she was excited about the opportunities that selling half of Silver Fern to a Chinese company could bring.

Anne-Marie Allen from Anna-Dale Station in Methven said the co-operative had struggled to stay profitable, but it had a great brand and global strategy and needed a partner that would go ahead with that.

Federated Farmers is urging its members to think about what the long term effects of selling half of the meat processor Silver Fern Farms will be. President William Rolleston said on the face of it it is a tremendous opportunity , but he wants farmers to inform themselves well by going to meetings that are being held by the company's board before they vote.