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Future of Indian Buffalo meat imports clouds Indo cattle trade

James Nason, 15/12/2017

Mixed messages continue to emerge from Indonesia over its plans for Indian buffalo meat imports, adding to confusion for an import cattle supply chain which relies on annual breeding cycles and long-lead times to make decisions about future production levels.

In mid-November, as reported by Dr Ross Ainsworth in his monthly Beef Central column on Monday, Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture stated it had decided not to issue any new recommendation letters for future Indian beef imports.

This was largely because the importation of buffalo meat had not been successful in stabilising the price of beef in Indonesia, and the ministry’s desire to increase Indonesian beef production.

Indonesian Government food supply agency Bulog has reported it has about 18,000t of frozen Indian buffalo meat in cold stores, a volume which in itself will take some months to work its way through to Indonesian customers.

Indonesia issued permits for the import of 100,000t of frozen Indian Buffalo meat in 2017.

As Dr Ainsworth reported in his column, about 30,000t of that permitted volume has yet to be imported, noting it was possible Indonesia may seek to further bolster its stocks of Indian buffalo meat by importing the outstanding balance.

Media reports in recent days suggest Indonesia has moved to do just that, with Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs deciding to re-issue permits for the remaining 31,000t to shore up the supply of beef and safeguard prices through the Christmas/New Year period and in the lead up to Lebaran (Ramadan) in May/June 2018.

Or as described by another Indonesian trade source, the permits for the import of a further 30,000t of Indian buffalo meat represents an extension of the 2017 permit expiry date, which were supposed to expire in December 31, 2017.

Still unclear is whether the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture’s November 15 statement that it will not recommend new import permits in future will stand, or whether new permits for buffalo meat imports will continue to be issued in 2018.

It is understood the Government of Indonesia remains highly concerned that the intervention of Indian Buffalo Meat imports has not been effective in reducing beef prices, and is conducting its own investigations into the relevant Government departments.

At the same time its Food Stability Taskforce is again actively visiting slaughterhouses and wet markets to monitor cattle supply and prices.

However, despite the stubbornly high price of beef in Indonesia, cattle prices out of feedlots have remained stable at low price levels, with some long-fed cattle reportedly selling at prices as low as AUD $3.70/kg liveweight.

Feedback suggests Indonesian lot feeders are set to incur losses of AUD $100 per head into 2018, based on the current differential between the buy price of Australian cattle and the low prices at which they must sell fed stock.

One Indonesian trade source said frozen Indian Buffalo Meat was not meeting the purpose of lowering the overall meat price because it was being sold at a higher price than it should, because traders were thawing it and selling it by mixing it with fresh beef.

Ministry of Agriculture Director General of Animal Husbandry and Animal Health, I Ketut Diarmita, said in a ministerial update last week that Indonesian consumer still prefer  fresh meat. “Most Indonesian people prefer fresh meat (hot carcass) from local cattle,” he said.


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