Galati eyes more Ord River land

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Tony Galati.
Camera IconTony Galati. Credit: Gerald Moscarda/The West Australian.

The Galati Group is on the hunt for more land on the Ord River irrigation scheme after revealing it wants to make WA self-sufficient in bananas within five years.

Family group boss Tony Galati said the ambitious plan would create a $50 million a year industry based out of Kununurra and employ about 500 people.

It will also send Queensland growers around the bend because they now supply more than 90 per cent of the WA market.

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Mr Galati is rapidly increasing the company's footprint on the Ord to boost production.

But he wants the State Government to make more land available for him to buy or rent. "They are giving land to the Chinese so there's no reason why can't they give it to us as well," he said.

"We are WA growers and if we get land to grow bananas it is going to benefit the State."

Mr Galati said he looked at the Ord and Lake Argyle through the same eyes as Chinese interests investing in a sugar industry. "They see that massive amount of water, they see all that land and they see how close it is to China," he said.

A year after planting bananas on farms at the Ord the Galati Group is trucking 2000 cartons a week to its Spudshed stores.

It owns and leases more than 200ha and snapped up a huge packing shed from receivers for the failed managed investment scheme Rewards in 2012.

"We have come from nothing in 12 months," Mr Galati said. "By October we will be producing 4000 to 5000 cartons a week, by February 8000 to 10,000 cartons."

Kununurra was home to more than 40 banana growers in the late 1980s, but the numbers have withered away to less than a handful.

Mr Galati said the potential for bananas became obvious when he researched Ord investment.

"There were a lot of growers and we want to get that back," he said. "We are also looking at other lines like sweet potatoes. It is big dollars and big jobs."

Mr Galati said it would be virtually impossible to break into the Queensland-dominated market without his family's Spudshed stores. He believes major supermarket chains will move to the locally grown bananas if there is sufficient supply.

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