Hopes are high within the northern cattle industry that volume live exports to Indonesia will re-commence in early to mid-August, but early signs suggest it will take a monumental effort to have ships back on the water within that timeframe.
Mid-August is just four weeks away, and to be shipping again by that date there is a lot of work to be done.
Elders, which owns it owns feedlot and abattoir in Indonesia, is reportedly well on track with plans to be re-exporting by August 1.
However most exporters must rely on importers and customers within Indonesia to make the necessary improvements to supply chains before they can realistically hope to gain Federal approval to re-export.
“Essentially it is up to our Indonesian clients to get their processes in place, to get them audited, and to give us the results,” one exporter told Beef Central this week.
“We’re obviously working closely with our Indonesian clients, and we’re doing what we can, but really it is up to them, and it is going to take a while.”
Exporters and Meat & Livestock Australia are currently working with Indonesian importers, lot feeders and abattoir operators to bring animal welfare practices, infrastructure and traceability within supply chains up to an assured standard, and to establish third-party auditing procedures.
While exporters have the considerable Australian NLIS experience to draw from in establishing traceability systems in Indonesia, getting the right equipment and back-up Indonesian language software systems in place in the Indonesian environment in a matter of weeks poses obvious challenges.
When that work is finished each supply chain must then pass a week-long audit process, after which documentation has to be sent to AQIS for review and then to the minister’s office.
The exporter can then apply for an export permit, and only when that is secured can they start sourcing cattle. Once assembled, the cattle enter pre-export quarantine for 2-3 days before they can be loaded.
It is a significant process to be achieved if exporters are to be operating again within three to four weeks.
Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig’s office confirmed this week that no applications for export permits have yet been received following his decision to re-open the market under strict new conditions last Wednesday.
Australia exported about 10,000 cattle a week to Indonesia on average in 2010 according to Livecorp statistics.
Export volumes in 2010 were lower in comparison to previous years following Indonesia’s decision to restrict imports to 350kg, in a move to allow more value-adding to occur in Indonesia and to encourage its own cattle industry towards self-sufficiency by 2014.
Australian Live Exporters Council executive director Lach McKinnon told Beef Central yesterday it would be at least one month before ships were ready to go.
“Exporters are a resilient bunch, we have dealt with big issues before but nothing as big as this,” he said.
“Obviously the financial stress and pressure on exporters at the moment is huge, but like any of these things we have to knuckle down and try to get through this as best we can."