A SHIP berthed at Portland has been emptied of timber cargo and further shipments looked "doubtful" after Chinese authorities notified the Australia government they would not accept Victorian logs.
Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud said the General Administration of Customs in China had notified the government that all Victorian log exports were suspended from Wednesday.
The government has been told live bark beetle was detected in a number of log shipments exported from Victoria this year.
"There is concern around the effectiveness of fumigation treatments on shipments of bushfire affected logs for export," Mr Littleproud said.
"The department has notified the industry and the major Victorian exporter and is working with industry on an enhanced treatment and inspection response and will be writing to GACC in the coming days."
Port of Portland chief executive officer Greg Tremewen said workers were unloading one ship's cargo, the Western Maple, on Thursday due to the suspension.
"There are another two ships scheduled to be berthed next week and we are awaiting advice from the shipping agent as to whether or not they will be loaded; I would say it would be doubtful," Mr Tremewen said.
Mr Tremewen attended a phone meeting with industry leaders and federal Assistant Forestry Minister Jonathon Duniam on Thursday morning when he was told the bio-security issues arose from containerised log shipments rather than bulk loaded logs.
Although the suspension included both types of shipments the Port of Portland does not export containerised logs.
Mr Tremewen said the port exports in excess of one million tonnes of bulk loaded logs a year, mostly to China from the Green Triangle region.
"They are stopping the majority because of the minority," he said.
"The representatives on the call stressed this is not a bio-security issue and is a government relations issue with China."
He said industry leaders at the meeting had pushed for the Australian government to find a quick solution for bulk loaded logs exports to resume.
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said the suspension would "potentially wipe hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Victorian economy".
"The timber sector, particularly in the green-triangle region has already suffered because of the pandemic, with exports significantly slowed as factories overseas were closed," Ms Britnell said.
"Governments need to come together and get this escalating trade stand-off sorted - there is too much on the line, particularly in rural and regional areas to just ignore it."
There is also an existing suspension of log exports to China in Queensland.
An Australian Forests Products Association spokesman said it was working with the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment to obtain "more details from Chinese officials" and "to address the issues identified."
It comes after rock lobster shipments were held up at Chinese airports this month, worrying south-west fishers before the season begins on Monday.
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