Potato industry deregulated

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
WA’s often ridiculed potato marketing regime will be scrapped.
Camera IconWA’s often ridiculed potato marketing regime will be scrapped. Credit: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

WA’s outdated and often ridiculed potato marketing regime will be scrapped from June 30 after years of campaigning by Spudshed owner Tony Galati and others.

The long-awaited deregulation will come with a $14 million sweetener for growers, who have based their livelihoods on paying for production quotas under a system policed by the State Government’s Potato Marketing Corporation.

Agriculture and Food Minister Dean Nalder said the industry adjustment package would be funded from the Royalties for Regions fund to help growers make the transition.

The Government will repeal laws dating back to 1946 by the end of September and the PMC will wind up operations by the end of the year.

The Potato Growers Association of WA had been pushing for a $24 million adjustment package based on an independent report and financial analysis it commissioned last year.

Mr Galati, who is locked in a legal battle with the PMA over claims he overplanted potatoes last summer, has said that if growers were offered a package of about $14-$16 million, they should “take the money and run”.

Mr Nalder said deregulation would lead to increased production of ware, processing and seed potatoes.

“Growers are expected to focus on gourmet and seed potatoes, which in unregulated markets offer higher prices than standard ware lines,” he said.

“Growers seeking economies of scale may also move into producing processing potatoes. Growers of other vegetables may also produce ware potatoes as a profitable rotation option.”

He said the Government would consult industry about the “most equitable distribution” of funds under the adjustment package.

The move to deregulate comes after Liberal MPs warned Premier Colin Barnett that uncertainty was affecting the health and wellbeing of WA’s 78 potato-growing families.

The regulated marketing system has been unravelling and thousands of potatoes dumped since Mr Barnett said it would be scrapped, but not until after next year’s election unless growers supported the move.

Many growers are based in the Warren-Blackwood electorate of Nationals WA leader and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman, who pushed for an adjustment package.

“At a recent meeting in Manjimup attended by 150 growers and industry participants, there was unanimous support to bring forward deregulation and I gave my commitment for Royalties for Regions to support the adjustment package,” he said.

Mr Redman said the adjustment package included $2 million for industry development.

He said the $2 million would be matched “dollar-for-dollar” with industry investment in research and development, marketing and retaining varieties.

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