Mark Patterson, Primary Industries Spokesperson
Westland Milk Products shareholders need to think long and hard before selling their 125-year-old Co-op, says New Zealand First Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Patterson.
The Board of the long-established farmer-owned co-operative announced last week it had voted unanimously to accept an offer from Yili Industrial Group for $588 million.
“Shareholders need to consider carefully the consequences of voting in favour of the sale,” Mr Patterson says. “By selling their Co-op for short-term gain they need to be particularly concerned for the more isolated farmers who risk being dropped when the 10-year guaranteed supply period ends.”
“We must also be concerned about the continued erosion of New Zealand control of the dairy industry, our biggest export earner. We must be mindful of the long-term consequences of becoming price-takers at the end of a supply chain controlled by a foreign multinational.”
The Government has not been a passive bystander, having recently offered a loan from the Provincial Growth Fund in order to accelerate Westland Milk’s value-add strategy.
“With the upcoming tranche of changes of the Overseas Investment Act, the Government has to prioritise the retention of key strategic commercial assets in Kiwi ownership.”
“As a country we need to get serious about the repercussions of losing control of processing companies for our agricultural exports. The highest margins are closest to the consumer and we can’t capture those profits for New Zealand if we don’t own those value chains.”