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Indonesia reconsidering zone-based imports from FMD affected countries

James Nason, 22/10/2013

Indonesian agriculture minister Suswono, the main driver behind the country’s most recent but now sidelined five-year attempt to achieve self-sufficiency in beef production, is leading a push for Indonesia to import beef from Foot-and-Mouth-Disease free zones in Brazil.

In several articles that have appeared in Indonesian media over the past week Suswono has spoken out against Indonesia’s heavy reliance on beef and cattle imports from Australia.

Indonesian law only permits the import of beef and cattle from countries that have secured disease-free status from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In 2009 the Indonesian Parliament introduced a new Animal Husbandry Law allowing importers to import beef and cattle from disease-free zones within countries, regardless of the disease status of the country as a whole.

However the zone-based rule was annulled by Indonesia’s Constitutional Court in 2010 following a challenge by Indonesian farming and veterinary groups.

Farmers and vets successfully argued that the policy could harm consumers and local production because of the possibility of diseases from unsafe zones within exporting countries infecting cattle in "safe" zones.

The policy is back in the spotlight with Indonesian parliamentarians again deliberating whether to allow imports from FMD-free zones within to expand Indonesia’s import options.

Agriculture minister Suswono told the Indonesian media that moving to a zone-based system would improve Indonesia’s food security and would help to reduce ‘monopolistic practices’ by importers and livestock exporting countries.

"There is always the possibility that exporting countries, for their own benefit, could halt exports of productive female cattle to prevent us attaining beef self-sufficiency,” Suswono said in the Jakarta Post.

“This way, we would have to keep bringing in beef from their countries."

The minister’s public comments that Australia may have an agenda to withhold exports of commercial breeding cattle stand in stark contrast to recent experiences at trade level.

Australian exporters showed no reluctance to ship productive female cattle to Indonesia last year in response to Jakarta’s calls for more breeding cattle to support its self-sufficiency push.

In fact exports of breeding cattle from Australia to Indonesia were rapidly gathering pace in the early months of 2012 until Indonesian authorities suddenly and unexpectedly introduced a policy requiring full individual pedigree information for all female cattle imports.

While possible for stud cattle, the requirement was impossible for Australian exporters to meet on commercial female cattle bred in extensive herds in northern Australia.

The policy effectively stopped the trade in breeding cattle dead in its tracks and it has not since recovered.

When the new policy was announced around 10,000 breeding cattle were on their way from Australia to Indonesia. The Indonesian Government ordered that those cattle remain in quarantine facilities until new breeding cattle protocols were resolved. With no agreement on breeding cattle imports achieved since that time, that is where those 10,000 cattle remain more than 12 months later.

Another high level parliamentarian who has publicly backed calls for Indonesia to open its gates to meat from FMD free zones is the deputy chairman of the House of Representatives' Commission IV that is overseeing the proposed revision to Indonesia’s Animal Husbandry Law.
Herman Khaeron told Indonesian media last week that lawmakers will seek to would curb monopoly practices without challenging the Constitutional Court’s 2010 ruling.

He said they would be cautious in drafting the revision and would not include the problematic "zone-based" phrases. However, the revision if passed would allow Indonesia to import from any ‘safe zone' worldwide.

"The main point is that livestock entering the country is productive and healthy," he told the Jakarta Post.

Agriculture Ministry quarantine agency chief Banun Sri Harpini said that to ensure that animals entering the country were free from disease, the ministry would prepare stronger quarantine steps, including pre-shipment quarantine in the countries of origin, to monitor imports.

The ministry was also deliberating whether to establish a "quarantine island" to hold animal imports for inspection before entering the Indonesian market, she said.

Indonesia’s farming sector is lobbying against the move.

Teguh Boediyana, chairman of the Cattle and Buffalo Breeders Association, which backed the 2010 court ruling, said the House's careful drafting would not amend the fact that the revision contravened the court's 2010 ruling.

RELATED ARTICLE: Do frozen meat imports represent an FMD risk?

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