Exports of Queensland melons to New Zealand have been temporarily suspended after a virus was detected in a shipment of watermelons.
Biosecurity Queensland has been working with New Zealand authorities to trace the source of the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV), and said it was currently awaiting results of diagnostic testing.
The cucurbit virus was detected in New Zealand on December 13, prompting the country's Ministry of Primary Industries to freeze imports of all fresh cucurbits from Queensland's Pest Free Area, pending the outcome of the investigation.
It estimated 15 melon consignments are currently being held at the New Zealand border, and authorities there have said they will either send them back or destroy them, but Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) said it is hopeful that some of the produce will be cleared for release.
DAF said watermelon, honeydew and rockmelons were the only CGMMV host commodities in season being traded from to New Zealand.
DAF also said the Australian melon industry potentially has access to other export markets, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Trade is continuing from New South Wales and Victoria for honeydew melons and rockmelons under the Pest Free Place of Production for CGMMV protocol.
CGMMV is a plant pathogenic virus that affects the cucurbit family of plants, which includes watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin and squash.
The virus, which can cause substantial crop losses, was first detected in Australia in 2014 in the Northern Territory, where more than 20 farms were affected.
It was then detected in a watermelon crop near Charters Towers, Queensland, in 2015, in an outbreak attributed to infected seeds imported from overseas.
The most recent detections of CGMMV in Queensland were in commercial cucumber greenhouses in the Wide Bay region of Queensland in 2017.
CGMMV has also been detected in Western Australia, on commercial cucurbit properties in Kununurra, Carnarvon, Geraldton and Perth.
Growcom, the peak body for vegetable growers in Queensland, said CGMMV does not pose a risk to consumers
"The plant virus is only something that affects the plants themselves," biosecurity manager Janine Clarke said.
"The quality of food can deteriorate if you leave it there too long, but … it's not a virus or a disease that would affect people.
"[It] was once an exotic plant pest but it has, unfortunately, been deemed unable to be eradicated.
"It is a notifiable pest and we would encourage all growers to be very vigilant in light of what has happened to the shipment in New Zealand, and report any suspected findings to the appropriate authorities.
"There is a management plan that is documented on the Ausveg website, and we would encourage growers to reacquaint themselves with that management plan, and to be exceedingly vigilant on the signs and symptoms.