2011-02-18

Wool cooperative down but not necessarily out

Federated Farmers believes the failure of Wool Partners Cooperative (WPC) to secure $55 million in farmer backing, while disappointing, may still see a new farmer run cooperative emerge.

“At a personal level am I disappointed? Yes, but as Federated Farmers we must recognise that a majority were yet to be convinced and the WPC model needed a majority to commit,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“To be successful, truly successful, a cooperative has to be built from the bottom up. What I take heart from is that despite some of the worst years for profitability, so many had shared up.

“Yet wool growers have now spoken and the requirements of the WPC prospectus have not been met so we need to move on.

“Federated Farmers is determined to make certain that we don’t look back on this day as an opportunity wasted.

“It’s why Federated Farmers is keen to talk with Wool Partners International and all industry players about a grower owned model. I’m still personally convinced that together in a cooperative we can make things happen for our industry.

“Consolidation and unity is important to wool growers as is much closer involvement in the selling of our fibre.

“There have been many reports into wool but most conclude that farmers should remain owners of their fibre until at least the end of first stage processing. There’s something fundamental about that.

“WPC put up an option that they felt might meet this requirement and got the largest voluntary capital raising the wool industry has ever seen, with 40 million kilograms committed.

“That tells me a sizeable minority of wool growers want a cooperative. They put their money where their mouth was.

“Doing nothing isn’t an option for farmers or the meat and wool industry. Wool is integral to the sheep industry’s long term prosperity.

“So while things maybe black for those who had invested their hopes in WPC we know a sunrise will always follow the darkest of nights.

“What we are looking for is a woolly phoenix to rise from the ashes,” Mr Wills concluded.

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