16 Feb 2011

Final day for farmers to commit to wool marketing co-op

7:09 am on 16 February 2011

A proposal for a new co-operative giving farmers greater control and better returns for their wool is set to fail unless more of them sign up on Wednesday.

Wool Partners Co-operative is asking farmers to buy $55 million worth of shares and commit about half of the country's strong or carpet wool for it to sell.

It will use the money for market development and to buy rural servicing company PGG Wrightson out of an existing joint venture with farmers, Wool Partners International.

The move has triggered fierce opposition from wool exporters, brokers and merchants who fear being squeezed out of business if farmers take more control.

The promoters have already extended the deadline for farmers to sign up twice, but it finally runs out at the end of Wednesday.

Exporters reject a claim by co-operative chair, Southland farmer Jeff Grant, that failure could mean New Zealand's wool export trade will end up almost entirely in foreign hands.

Wool Exporters Council President John Dawson says that claim is alarmist.

Federated Farmers meat and fibre chair Bruce Wills says it is in farmers' best interests to go for the proposal.

Mr Grant says he expects to announce the outcome on Friday morning.