Australia’s live export trade is anxiously awaiting the release of official Indonesian import permits for the first quarter of 2012.
It is not unusual for the Indonesian Government to delay quota allocations for each new quarter until one or two weeks into the new three month period.
However, against the backdrop of recently announced cutbacks to Indonesia’s annual import quota from 520,000 head in 2011 to 283,000 head in 2012, there is a heightened sense of uncertainty and anticipation among exporters and importers this year as they await news of how large this quarter’s quota will be.
The lack of quotas for the Jan-March 2012 period forced Wellard Rural Exports to leave thousands of cattle behind in Darwin when the MV Ocean Shearer departed for Indonesia over Christmas.
The Shearer had 7000 cattle yet to load when the Darwin Port authority ordered ships to sea on Christmas day as warnings of potentially devastating winds from Tropical Cyclone Grant intensified.The authority indicated the port would be closed for two days.
A Wellard Rural Exports spokesperson said the closure meant the company had little choice but to leave the 7000 behind and continue without a full load to Indonesia, because the time required to return after the cyclone to load the remaining cattle would have pushed the entire shipment outside its 2011 quota entitlement.
“It would have meant that we would not have met our end of year quota, and we would have been discharging some of the cattle in the new year which we did not have quota for,” the spokesperson said.
The 7000 cattle left behind were a mixture of cattle owned by Wellard and two other exporters.
It is also understood that a live export shipment that had been planned for Townsville in late January has also been cancelled because of concerns about the lack of permits and uncertainty about first-quarter quota levels.
While there has been no official announcement from Indonesia on the likely volume of the first quarter quota, an Indonesian trade source told Beef Central that based on the new annual quota of 283,000 for 2012, the quota for the quieter January to March period was likely to be around 60,000 head.
Exporters who have filed applications for import permits are hoping to recieve confirmation on first quarter quotas this week.
While the predicted intensity of Tropical Cyclone Grant did not eventuate, its remnants caused torrential rainfall in the Northern Territory, particularly around Katherine where up to 400mm (16 inches) fell within a 24 hour period.
The downpour caused floodwaters from the Edith River to wash away part of the Stuart Highway bridge that crosses river 40km north of Katherine, which in turn resulted in the derailment of a freight train early on Tuesday morning.
ABC radio reported that storm water also resulted in flash floods that caused machinery and crop losses near Katherine.