Spud king takes punt on bananas

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

One of WA's most successful farmers is rapidly expanding his operations near Kununurra and plans to establish banana plantations on the Ord River irrigation scheme.

Tony Galati bought a 500ha mango farm and packing operation on the Ord in October and recently leased another 500ha.

He started planting bananas this month and hopes to build up to 400ha of banana plantations over five years to supply about 25 per cent of the WA market, which relies heavily on Queensland.

Mr Galati is WA's biggest potato producer and grows vegetables on farms from Manjimup to Myalup in the South West. He supplies major supermarkets and is a big fruit and vegetable retailer through his Spud Shed stores.

It is more than a decade since bananas were grown widely on the Ord after growers became frustrated with crop losses from storms.

Mr Galati said the three farms he had leased so far for bananas were spread over a 60km radius.

"I won't be putting all my bananas in one basket," he said, adding he planned to secure more Ord land to grow avocados, melons, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.

"There is huge potential there and that is why the Chinese see it as a food bowl," he said. "You have the water, the land and the climate.

"You need economies of scale, you need to associate yourself with China and export. That is the key."

Mr Galati said his long-term plans included a supply chain from Wyndham port to China, which would take most of the mangoes from the big farm run by his brother Sam and David Heidke.

Tony Galati bought the farm from receivers in October after managed investment scheme Rewards collapsed. He said he had invested heavily in the business.

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