Greek Watermelon export in the European Union from Dougas Elias.

Price rebound, virus control helping 2015 watermelon season


Despite the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus affecting some of the crop from the Northern Territory, Australian watermelons are shaping up to have a good year. “The Northern Territory started out quite badly with ten properties quarantined, but the virus didn’t affect all of the Northern Territory,” Says Dianne Fullelove, Business Development Manager with the Australian Melon Association. “Crops south of Darwin have still been harvested and they’ve been good.” Some hiccups might have been expected too since watermelon growing has only recently expanded to the Northern Territory, enabling year round production and harvesting within Australia.

Watermelon prices have also recovered since an oversupply during the Christmas period saw the market average drop to 40-60c per kilo. The price has now returned to between 80c and $1.40 per kilo, according to Mark Daunt, a Queensland based grower and Chairman of the Melon Association. “In January prices picked up. They’re quite reasonable at the moment and production is fairly level,” he says. “During November and December we were just bringing out too much fruit. There was just too much production and market supply got a little bit excessive.
As the season moves south, where New South Wales and Northern Victoria are now harvesting, the main concern is biosecurity.  Ms Fullelove says the states have ‘upped the ante’ in that regard. “There is a lot of concern the virus could spread. Growers have done a lot of work with states. They’ve really upped the ante around biosecurity because any tiny damage to the plant will allow the virus to spread.” Almost all watermelon growers are using soft chemical sprays, to control pests but still allow beneficial insects to flourish, according to Mr Daunt. “Growers are using soft chemicals and not over applying,” he adds. All in all the harvest is expected to be as large as what it was in 2014, according to Ms Fullelove.
Weather hasn’t had much impact on the crops around the country so far, with only isolated hail storms affecting some parts of NSW, and one grower severely impacted. “Once they get crops established it’s not so bad. We always have individual issues such as hail storms,” adds Ms Fullelove.
The export market to New Zealand is also growing and ‘ticking along quite nicely’ according to Mr Daunt, though he says he can’t comment further than that.
For more information contact:
Mark Daunt, Chairman of the Australian Melon Association
Phone +61411642708
Dianne Fullelove, Business Development Manager for the Australian Melon Association
Phone: +61413101646