Australian beef exports to South Asian markets in March increased five percent year-on-year to 10,863 tonnes, helping push total shipments to the region for the first three months of 2012 10pc above the corresponding period last year.
Contributing to the increase was a 31pc year-on-year lift in shipments to Indonesia (2423t), which on face value looks encouraging, but comes off a very low March 2011 figure, and promises to collapse in coming months.
First quarter exports to Indonesia were also above the corresponding quarter last year, up 8pc, to 6313t.
But dig back another year in DAFF Trade data and a very different story emerges in trade flows.
For the first three months of 2010, before Indonesian market constraints on beef and offal trade started to take effect, Australia shipped 9355t for the first three months of the calendar year, on the way to a full year trade totalling almost 49,000t. A year before, in 2009, calendar year exports reached close to 52,000t, not including offals and fancy meats.
In mid-January this year, the Indonesian Government allocated 20,000t of boxed beef quota to 58 importers, covering the first six months of the 2012 quota year (see Beef Central’s Jan 11 story, “Indonesia issues permits for 20,000t of boxed beef”).
Although never formally confirmed, the figure, if accurate, represents 59pc of the 2012 year’s total beef quota, based on earlier Indonesian Government announcements that boxed beef and offal imports would be limited this year to 34,000t.
That figure applies to all suppliers, not just Australia, and if it is adhered to, will represent a huge drop in trade compared with 2011 and 2010 – especially as the Indonesian economy is growing strongly, relative to many others around the world. One estimate suggests Australia’s share might be as little as 20,000t.
Feedback from the recent Ministerial task force delegation to Indonesia, which included several senior processing sector stakeholders, suggests that based on current assessments by importers, available beef quota will be ‘very short’ by the end of April, if not already gone.
Anecdotal reports suggest there are substantial price increases occurring at retail level, as available supplies dwindle.
The Indonesian Agriculture Department has made it clear that for the time being there will be no increase in beef quota, despite the issues that a lack of supply is causing and their likely escalation as the market approaches the end of April. Effectively, there could be a two to three month gap with nil Australian beef in the Indonesian market at all, as the Indonesian Government doggedly supports its push towards self-sufficiency.
A new collaboration group has been formed involving seven separate Indonesian business associations involved in beef imports and usage, with a view to providing a united front to inform government on the issue.
Meanwhile, in other events relevant to Australia’s beef and live cattle trade with Indonesia, the Greens have reintroduced their Bill into the Senate that would put an immediate end to the export of live cattle and sheep from Australia.
The Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill amends the Export Control Act 1982 to prohibit the export of cattle, calves, sheep, lambs, goat or other prescribed animals for slaughter overseas. It is unlikely to pass on current numbers.