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Tony Galati has been battling the powerful potato regulator for the last 20 years (Source: News Corp Australia)

Tony Galati has been battling the powerful potato regulator for the last 20 years (Source: News Corp Australia)

The Potato Marketing Corporation of Western Australia has announced plans to take legal action against Galati, who owns a chain of grocery stores called the Spudshed as well as being one of the state’s largest growers, for allegedly breaching a 2013 commercial agreement in which he consented to grow only an agreed upon number of potatoes.

In an interview with ABC rural on Wednesday, Peter Evans, the chief executive of the Potato Marketing Corporation, alleged the corporation had “survey evidence” that Galati had planted more potatoes than he was supposed to and he said the resulting oversupply was hurting other growers.

“In effect he has distorted the market for potatoes and affected price and therefore returns for other growers so that’s the fundamental issue,” he said.

Evans said the corporation had a commercial agreement with Galati that outlined how many potatoes he could grow, which he said was based on Galati’s requirements.

“We have then survey evidence about, if you like, the area he has planted and there is a significant difference,” Evans said.

Evans said the 2013 agreement was struck in an attempt to end hostilities between the corporation and Galati. It apparently hasn’t worked.

“I think it’s widely known that Mr Galati is not a supporter of regulation,” Evans said.

The legal action is the latest in an escalating series of dramas in the Western Australia potato industry this year. First, in January, Galati declared he was giving away 200 tonnes of potatoes that he was prevented from selling because they put him over his 6000-tonne-a-year crop cap.

Then, in March, the Potato Marketing Corporation took a complaint to the WA Corruption and Crime Commission, accusing its chief operating officer of gross misconduct for allegedly working from within to move the industry toward deregulation and even, according to the West Australian, allegedly canvassing options including growers entering into a collective with Galati Group.

An article in the Australian in January, which referred to Galati as a “rebel grower”, said the potato magnate “effectively dared” the corporation to take him to court.

“We’ll fight them,” he told the Australian. “I’ve been fighting them for 20 years now — I want a free market.”

Western Australia is the only state in Australia that still has a regulated potato market. The legislation establishing the Potato Marketing Corporation was introduced after the Second World War and prevents anyone from being able to sell potatoes for human consumption without a licence.

He suggested that most of the potatoes given away by Galati in January were from “overplanting”. The giveaway angered other potato growers who said the tightly-controlled market took a hit from the sudden influx of free spuds.

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