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Departing Satara boss Wilson takes final jab at Zespri fees

Satara boss Wilson takes final jab at Zespri fees in outgoing update

By Paul McBeth

Jan. 10 (BusinessDesk) - Departing Satara Cooperative Group boss Tom Wilson has taken a stab at Zespri International's brokerage fees at the expense of growers in his last update to shareholders.

The Te Puke-based kiwifruit and avocado grower is still in talks with Zespri, which controls the nation's kiwifruit exports, over its 6 percent brokerage rate on gross sale proceeds and 6 percent of FOB sales, which Wilson says is costing growers between $60 million and $140 million every year.

"I continue to be amazed at the politics, patch protection and commercial arrogance that prevents this money going to growers - this should have been sorted years ago," Wilson said. "We have a smart single exporter structure that actually needs to just focus on grower's commercial welfare to put a 'lazy' $1 per tray into your wallet."

Zespri's legislated export monopoly was unsuccessfully challenged by rival Turners & Growers in 2010 when a High Court ruling upheld regulations enshrining the export marketer's position.

Wilson finishes up at Satara at the end of the month, having been appointed managing director in 2010 on an interim basis when his predecessor Wes Anderson-Smith departed. During his time in charge, he attempted to grow the business through a merger with Eastpak which was subsequently scuttled by the outbreak of the Psa vine bacteria.

In September, Satara reported a 23 percent decline in first-half earnings to $877,000 on a 3 percent drop in sales to $32.8 million.

Like other kiwifruit growers, the company has had to contend with the Psa outbreak, which is threatening to cut export returns by as much as a quarter, according to government estimates.

Shares in Satara were unchanged at 45 cents today.


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