New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra is to hold a special meeting of shareholders in June in a bid to get its controversial Trading Among Farmers scheme over the line.

The meeting, to be held on 25 June, will give shareholders a final vote on the scheme and “unify the co-operative”, Fonterra said.

The Trading Among Farmers scheme, which would allow its farmer-members to trade shares among themselves, would involve the creation of a market for share trading. At the same time, farmers would be able to free up share capital by placing some of their shares with a new shareholders fund, which would pay farmers for shares that they place with the fund, including the rights to dividends and the gain/loss from any change in the market value of those shares.

The design contemplates the fund raising the money that would be paid to farmers for shares they place with the fund by issuing units to outside investors. This Fonterra has said, would give investors an investment linked to its financial performance while ensuring the company remains 100% farmer controlled.

The move has been approved by Fonterra’s members but there has been unease about how the scheme would be implemented.

Earlier this week, the dairy co-operative’s chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden said the board was in a “challenging position” because while the majority of shareholders are “urging directors to get on with Trading Among Farmers”, there is a small group of shareholders who had “concerns and were particularly vocal in the New Zealand media”.

“Firstly, this is in danger of splitting the shareholder base and is not in the best interest of Fonterra’s future,” van der Heyden said.

“Secondly, instead of having the discussion among farmers and resolving the matter in the family, the debate is now spilling into the international media and damaging Fonterra’s reputation and our global partnerships.”

Sir Henry said that he and CEO Theo Spierings, had been in Asia last week and most people they met asked if the debate was impacting on the Co-operative’s stability and reliability as a partner.

“We have to put a stop to this and use the special meeting to unify the shareholder base so that we can get on with implementing the new refreshed business strategy. At the moment all we are doing is destroying value and compromising potential business opportunities.”

In January, Fonterra said several independent expert advisers were “running the ruler” over the scheme to “ensure the scheme preserves 100% farmer control and ownership”, as part of a comprehensive due diligence process.

Due diligence is expected to be completed by 25 June, at which time Fonterra said the council will have had the opportunity to consider “the fifth precondition”.

“The board will be in a position to give unqualified assurances on 100% control and ownership,” van der Heyden said. “We will be able to answer everyone’s questions with absolute confidence and the meeting will serve to remind all shareholders of the detail of the Trading Among Farmers package.”