Australia’s northern cattle industry was given a sobering message on the outlook for the Indonesian import permit situation at last Friday’s Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association conference.
Indonesia has cut the number of cattle it will take from Australia in 2012 to 283,000 head, down from a quota of more than 500,000 last year.
Northern producers who rely on the trade are hopeful that reports of beef shortages in the country may lead the Government to increase its intake of Australian cattle later this year.
However Meat and Livestock Australia’s country manager for Indonesia, John Ackerman, told the conference that the Indonesian political situation meant that it was unlikely that annual import permits would increase between now and the country’s presidential elections in 2014.
“The Indonesian Government wants to ensure they are self-sufficient in beef,” Mr Akerman told the conference.
“This is a political mandate that they have, and they are certainly going to hold that line for the next 18 month period as they move into the presidential elections in 2014.
“The debate has often circled around whether they can or cannot be self-sufficient, but actually that’s not one for us to make, they are going to hold the line that they have to be self-sufficient by that time period.”
Mr Ackerman said Indonesian importers had to be congratulated for their enormous efforts in bringing Indonesian supply chains up to approved Federal Government standards in the past nine months.
He pointed out that before May last year, most feedlots and importers in Indonesia sold animals directly from their feedlot gates.
“They distributed them all through Indonesia, keeping in mind it is 240 million people, 17,000 islands and a developing nation with not a great deal of infrastructure,” Dr Akerman explained.
“That was their business model.
“When the Govt laid down the law last year in June, they had to completely change their model.
“They had to rearrange everything that they did, and they did it rapidly.
“They turned from being an industry that sold animals out of their feedlots, to an industry that sold carcases to the people of Indonesia.
“To get 65 abattoirs (accredited) was extraordinary, and importers need to be congratulated on doing that.”
The forum was asked whether the 65 accredited abattoirs represented sufficient capacity to handle the volumes of cattle now moving to the market in the approach to Ramadan and Eid religious festivals.
“We think there is enough capacity for the current volume of cattle going through the supply chain,” MLA live export manager Michael Finucan told the audience.
Cattle Council of Australia executive director David Inall said animal rights groups were constantly looking to “pressure test” the ESCAS system.
He said the industry had to be focused on ensuring that abattoirs that are approved remain up to specification and fully capable of handling the volumes feeding into the system.