Indonesia’s trade minister has this week given the most encouraging signal yet that the Jokowi Government is considering agreeing to Australia’s request for live cattle import quotas to be issued on an annual basis.
In an interview with ABC Radio’s AM program this week, Thomas Lembong said indications were “fairly positive” that Australia’s request for a more stable system of annual quotas would be agreed to.
“Indications are fairly positive, broadly speaking I am sanguine that cattle farmers, people in the beef trade in Australia have good things to look ahead to,”the minister said in an interview with ABC Radio’s Samantha Hawley.
Asked when Australia could expect an announcement, the minister answered “soon”.
“It’s a matter of months I would say, maybe, hopefully even weeks. It’s not a matter of years – for sure.
“The tempo in the Jokowi government has picked up noticeably and we want to make economic policy in a timely fashion now.”
Australian Council of Livestock Exporter’s chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the minister’s positive comments were encouraging, but also added that the industry could not afford to wait months for an answer.
“We are weeks away from needing those numbers to plan the year out, particularly as we are going to start losing time if we have a decent wet season,” Ms Penfold told Beef Central.
In his interview with ABC AM, the Indonesian Trade Minister also gave a frank assessment of Indonesia’s decision to dramatically cut live cattle imports from Australia earlier this year.
Thomas Lembong, who was appointed to the position after the cut was made, said the unexpected decision to issue permits for just 50,000 cattle in the fourth quarter was “unfortunate” and “probably unnecessary”.
He added that people in the Australian cattle trade probably have some positive things to look ahead to.
“The truth is that Australia and Indonesia are partners in this cattle trade, we have a great business going between our two countries. In fact if you look more broadly there are huge opportunities that we ought to be exploring jointly so I think the disruptions that occurred earlier in the year were probably quite unfortunate but we’re working hard to normalise and hopefully look ahead to medium and long term opportunities that we can explore together.”
Indo flags plans to import 22,000 breeders
Meanwhile, a government regulation by Indonesia on the development of quarantine islands to accommodate imported cattle breeding will be issued in November.
Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman told Indonesian media this week that the issue of the regulation will be followed by the import of 22,000 Australian cattle to be bred on the islands.
He added that six months after the regulation is issued, the ministry will issue a supporting ministerial regulation.
The Agriculture Minister said that the islands’ development aimed to solve Indonesia’s dependency on beef imports.
“So we will buy the ‘factory’ [cattle] and breed them, instead of [only purchasing] the beef,” he said.
Previously, the ministry’s quarantine agency chief Banun Sri Harpini said potential quarantine islands could be Naduk Island in Bangka Belitung province, Durian Besar Island in Riau Islands province and Simuang Island in Southeast Sulawesi province, due to their economic and technical viability. Historically, the islands have been free from animal diseases and they have clean water and ecosystems that could support the imported cattle.