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China has indefinitely suspended imports of all Victorian timber logs, less than a week after an unofficial ban on Australian exports came into effect.

It follows China’s decision to block a shipment of timber from Queensland, sending exporters into limbo amid fears more exports will be blocked.

Chinese customs officials notified the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment late yesterday of the ban, which is effective immediately, after 12 shipments from Victoria this year contained bark beetles.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the department was working with industry on an “enhanced treatment and inspection response”, and would write to China’s customs officials in coming days.

“There is concern around the effectiveness of fumigation treatments on shipments of bushfire-affected logs for export” Mr Littleproud said.

Victoria’s Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the suspension applied to plantation timber.

“If bark beetle is present it is a legitimate reason to suspend trade, and we want to make sure we can address any quarantine issues as quickly as possible,” Ms Symes said.

“We don’t have any evidence either way at this time.”

The Victorian Government said it would “back the Federal Government to lead effective talks with Chinese authorities”.

The annual trade for whole logs from Victoria to China is valued at $260 million.

At least two shipments, which had been expected to load at Portland in western Victoria this week, have now been cancelled, and there are concerns for shipments at sea already en route to China.

It is possible they could now be rerouted to markets in Vietnam or Japan.

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