INTERSTATE watermelon growers are introducing stringent biosecurity measures on their properties as they wait to see whether or not the virus that has crippled the industry in Katherine will reach their farm gates.
As producers in Katherine continue to come to terms with the fallout from the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus outbreak in the Northern Territory, farmers in other growing regions are doing everything they can to ensure a similar fate does not befall them.
Four quarantine zones - three in Katherine and one in Darwin - have now been set up, with growers impacted by CGMMV told they will have to burn and bury their existing crops.
In a further blow, watermelons will not be able to be grown in the Katherine region for up to two years as the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries attempts to wipe out the virus.
New South Wales producer Jamie Schembri, who grows watermelons on Greenview Farm, near Griffith, said the CGMMV outbreak had shaken the industry.
The majority of Mr Schembri’s income is derived from growing about 10,000 tonnes of watermelons each year and he said it would be catastrophic if his crop succumbed to the virus.
“It’s a very big concern for us, as melons are our main line of produce, so we’re at this time just starting off some biosecurity and making sure we’re looking at the paddock pretty hard,” he said.
“We definitely have to put our foot baths in and not allow anyone down the paddock without authorisation.
“We’re really nearly putting a lock on the gate.”
While CGMMV is yet to be detected outside of the NT, Mr Schembri said he and other growers were working on the assumption it eventually would be.
“You’ve just got to have it at the back of your mind that there is a chance [of an interstate outbreak],” he said.
“No one really knows how bad it can get if it moves around.”
Primary Industry and Fisheries Minister Willem Westra van Holthe said, while he empathised with impacted growers, tough quarantine measures were needed to ensure Katherine’s watermelon industry survived.
“We do have to deal with it and we do want to have an industry in the future, which is why we have to take these strong steps now,” he said.