Tony Galati potato charges dropped
The potato industry regulator has dropped charges against Spud Shed king Tony Galati like a hot potato.
Mr Galati had been accused of planting too many potatoes, but the Potato Marketing Corporation withdrew the charge before a scheduled hearing in Perth Magistrate's Court last week.
They have fought a series of court battles over the years but are starting to find some common ground.
PMC acting chief executive Peter Evans said the corporation had entered a new era and pressing ahead with the court case was not in the best interests of either party.
The PMC is in talks with Mr Galati about the future of the industry as it gears up for a $1.8 million grower-funded marketing campaign aimed at lifting local annual consumption by 10,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes over the next three years.
Mr Galati said he was restricted to growing about 3500 tonnes a year in the heavily regulated industry, which was subject to the Marketing of Potatoes Act of 1946.
It was estimated that he over-planted by the equivalent of 500 tonnes.
The multi-millionaire, who has just opened one of the biggest bottle shops in Australia, said he had intended to fight the charge but was looking forward to working with the PMC after years of conflict.
In 2011, he was fined $3000 for exceeding his planting limit by 35ha. The fine came after he was convicted of the same offence a year earlier.
In 2008, Mr Galati reached an out-of-court settlement with the PMC after he sold potatoes outside of the regulated system.
He also settled out of court after a two-year battle in the Federal Court centring on claims the 1946 Act contravened the Trade Practices Act and the Constitution.
"It is about time we started to work together and doing the right thing for WA growers," he said.
"They have realised the need to work with us to expand the industry instead of hindering us in growing spuds."
WA's biggest potato producer said there were no restrictions on South Australian produce entering WA at a cost to the local industry.
"We can sell more spuds but if we don't get the opportunity to grow them, they will come in from South Australia," he said.
"They can sit on the other side of border and grow all spuds they want."
Mr Galati is building a huge packing shed at Myalup and wants to expand production on potato farms run by his brother, Vince.
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