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Emerald refuses pool disclosure

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian

WA graingrowers pursuing a class action against Emerald Grain are seeking a court order requiring the disclosure of documents containing information that could explain the reasons behind the poor performance of the 2011-2012 wheat pool.

Gabbin farmer Mark Fitzpatrick, speaking on behalf of the 70 farmers involved in the class action against Emerald Grain, said the grain marketer had been served notice by law firm Granich Partners to supply various documents relating to the finances and performance of the pool.

Emerald Grain had 30 days until the end of January to supply the documents, but refused.

The next step is a court order, which is likely to be heard in the coming weeks.

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Mr Fitzpatrick said the various documents were requested so growers could understand what caused the poor performance during that particular season.

"The documents related to financial performance and evidence of how they traded, so we can determine whether they took reasonable steps in making the trades they did," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Among the information requested are details of freight charges and booked shipping slots.

One of the reasons previously stated for the losses could be that Emerald Grain may have extensively overbooked shipping slots and had to pay for those it could not use.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the move to obtain this information was part of the preparation ahead of possibly taking the grain marketer to the Supreme Court of WA.

The growers rejected an out of court settlement offer from Emerald Grain last year.

Mr Fitzpatrick said it was estimated the 70 grain growers collectively lost in the order of $6-$10 million, but possibly more.

The growers estimate the pool returns were $65 to $80 a tonne lower than expected.

Meanwhile, a financial expert is in the process of detailing growers' individual losses.

The information requested by Granich Partners will also be used to help assess individual losses.

A leading accounting firm had been instructed to analyse the information once received.

Emerald Grain did not wish to comment.

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