Regulator takes spud war to court

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Support: Busselton grower Vaughan Carter.
Camera IconSupport: Busselton grower Vaughan Carter. Credit: Tom Rovis-Hermann

The State's industry regulator has launched Supreme Court action against Spud Shed owner Tony Galati after a breakdown in peace talks in WA's potato war.

The Potato Marketing Corporation alleges Mr Galati is hurting other growers by deliberately planting too many potatoes.

Chief executive Peter Evans said it would seek substantial damages and was acting on behalf of about 80 WA growers hit by a big oversupply.

"We will also be seeking for independent auditors to look at his potato sales and production figures," Mr Evans said.

Mr Galati has asked former WA governor Malcolm McCusker to represent him in what shapes as another major legal battle with the PMC.

Mr Galati said he would discuss the issue with his family today, but was likely to fight the PMC in the courts and by planting even more potatoes.

"If we challenge them, we will fight them all the way," he said.

"If they do want to fight, the only way to fight them is to go out and grow more spuds and prove to people that we can grow cheaper potatoes without the regulated system."

Mr Evans said the legal action centred on an agreement between the PMC and Mr Galati in 2013 to end a war that had raged for almost 25 years in the heavily regulated industry, where a quota system limits potato supplies.

The PMC and Mr Galati met three times in recent weeks to try to resolve their differences.

"We are not making any progress and growers have had enough of this," Mr Evans said. "It is affecting their prices and their ability to place their product."

Busselton grower Vaughan Carter said the oversupply hurt the industry and affected livelihoods. He said there was strong support from growers for the court action despite concern about legal costs.

"The PMC asked growers what they would like to see happen and the growers have just had enough," he said. "It has been a continuation from one individual and it needs to stop."

Mr Galati said he had nothing to fear from an audit and denied exceeding his quota to grow about 6000 tonnes a year for the domestic market.

This year growers dumped hundreds of tonnes of potatoes.

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