But as of this week, the NSW Food Authority is confident all contaminated produce has been pulled from supermarket shelves, eliminating the risk to consumers. The affected rockmelons were linked to a single NSW grower, Rombola Farms, yet people remain hesitant to buy the fruit.
Dianne Fullelove, industry development manager at the Australian Melon Association, says the whole industry is suffering as a result.
“Sales are down by 90 percent domestically and it’s had a huge impact on the export market,” she says.
Fullelove says steps are being taken to ensure the safety of Australians and the futures of melon farmers.
“The industry is planning to fund research and support for growers’ systems, so they can go back through their systems and notch them up to the next level so they’re as good as they can be,” she says.
Western Australian farmers produce a substantial percentage of our rockmelons and the family-owned, 200-hectare Capogreco Farms is one of the state’s largest exporters of melons.
Co-owner Bruno Capogreco says the upcoming melon season is now in doubt: “I don’t know if we’ll pick another rockmelon. The impact has been that bad.”
Capogreco believes it’s up to supermarket giants Coles, Woolworths and Aldi to lead by example and restock rockmelons to regain the trust of Australian consumers.
“If the supermarkets don’t repack the shelves, this is going to be a complete disaster for the months to come,” he says.
“Trust the rest of the growers in the country are doing the right thing. They don’t want anybody to get sick.”