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Charters Towers export yards set to handle 36,000 cattle by end of March

James Nason, 05/03/2024

SOME 36,000 cattle will be handled through the Charters Towers Dalrymple Saleyards export quarantine facility by the end of March, as northern exporters, agents and transporters pull out all stops to deliver ships to Indonesia in time for the month-long Ramadan period which begins this Sunday.

Beef cattle businesses in Indonesia are reporting that beef stocks are running precariously low, leading to concerns domestic beef prices could soar for Indonesian consumers during peak Ramadan consumption period.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade estimates that beef consumption in Indonesia in 2024 will total 720,375 tonnes.

However, the Indonesian Beef Cattle Businessmen’s Association, which goes by the name Gapuspindo, believes local production will only total 281,640 tonnes, resulting in a 438,735 tonne deficit.

Gapuspindo Executive Director Joni Liano is urging the Indonesian government to support local cattle businesses and address the shortage by allowing more feeder cattle imports.

Without imports, Mr Liano told Indonesian media, the local cattle population could deplete within four years.

With 2024 permits available after a seven-week delay, Indonesian feedlots are placing orders for heavier than usual cattle to reach market weights in time for the end-of-Ramadan feasting period.

The rush has triggered strong demand for cattle for export from Townsville, with greater numbers of heavier weight cattle available in North Queensland and the region also more accessible for transport during the wet season.

A spokesperson for the Charters Towers Regional Council, which owns and operates the Dalrymple Saleyards and cattle export transit facility, told Beef Central today that an estimated 36,000 cattle have been booked to be handled through the establishment across eight shipments.

That includes 2000 in late February and about 34,000 cattle which are scheduled to be handled through the facility this month.

It will be the largest monthly volume of cattle to pass through the transit facility for several years, according to the Charters Towers Regional Council. Previous significant totals processed through the yard included 32,444 head in August 2018, and 25,069 in in January 2020.

The spokesperson said the resurgence in market activity was welcome, following a 50 percent decline in export processing at the Dalrymple Saleyards since 2021, which reflected an industry wide trend as high commercial market prices subdued export demand.

“It is heartening to witness a resurgence in market activity,” the spokesperson said.

“The current uptick signals positive momentum, and we anticipate this trend to continue upward.”

One reason why so many cattle are being handled through the Charters Towers facility this month is because it remains the only pre-export-quarantine facility in Queensland that is formally certified by Indonesia to handle cattle for its market.

Other facilities are waiting to be licensed, including some that were previously licensed to process cattle for Indonesia, but when their certification expired during the COVID period, travel restrictions prevented Indonesian officials from visiting Australia to re-audit and re-certify them.

Beef Central understands that at least two NQ facilities – Reid River and Julago – along with a handful of facilities in Western Australia were visited by Indonesian authorities late last year, but are still waiting for formal certification to be regranted.

Meanwhile, cattle export industry sources have told Beef Central that while current strong demand for Australian cattle to Indonesia is Ramadan-related, and would be expected to ease back once the current time-crunch has passed, orders should continue as Indonesian feedlots look to buy feeder cattle to replace stock sold through Ramadan.

The shortage of cattle in Indonesia has been exacerbated by the rundown of the domestic herd through the food and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease outbreaks of recent years, which has created a void for imported cattle and beef to fill.

The situation has prompted some Indonesian Government officials to re-vitalise talk of expanding local cattle production to reduce reliance on imports by developing cattle farms in Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

The newly-elected president Subianto Prabowo also announced ambitious plans during the Presidential election campaign to develop a 2.5 million dairy cow herd to provide free milk to school children across Indonesia.

The plan that would require substantial growth in the dairy herd, currently estimated at around 400,000 head, which has had only increased by 1.5 percent over the past five years, according to media reports. Indonesia imports almost 80 percent of its national milk needs, dominated by powdered milk.





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