Live Export

Kimberley producers sweating on live export future

James Nason, 16/06/2011

An early season marketing program allowed Kimberley cattle producer John Grey to avoid the full impact of the Federal Government’s suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia.

However, he says there are many other producers in the northern WA region yet to sell cattle who are now facing a desperate situation as a result of the ban.

Should the suspension stay in place for a long period, the only realistic option for most Kimberley cattle that were destined for the Indonesian live export market will be a 3000km journey to meatworks in WA’s south.

Kimberley producers who were geared to realise cash flow on cattle to Indonesia over the next two to three months would now face the possibility of having to keep them for another year and a half to two years to get them to the required weights to be able to sell them into the southern meatworks market.

“We were lucky enough to be able to ship a lot of our cattle to Indonesia at the start of the season – about two thirds of our male cattle – but people that have been held up would be very desperate for the market to re-open as soon as possible,” Mr Grey told Beef Central.

“If you are going to keep those cattle for another year and a half or two years, it is quite a big issue,  you are not going to be getting much more money, but you will be holding quite a lot less cattle because the grazing pressure required to get them to the required weights.”

Mr Grey said many producers had been shocked by the incidents of animal cruelty exposed an ABC Four Corners and were not aware that the cattle they had raised were being subjected to such conditions.

He said it was pleasing to know that traceability will be developed to ensure cattle are only handled in abattoirs that meet acceptable standards in future.

The Federal Government’s sudden decision to impose a blanket ban on all live exports to Indonesia early last week had left producers in a daze and feeling abandoned, he said.

“In the past few days though we have heard some things that make us think that things aren’t so grim,” Mr Grey said.

“We have just heard Indonesia say they want the cattle, originally they indicated they would get them from somewhere else, so it is quite pleasing to know that you do have a product they want.

“Even the Government seems to be modifying its stance a little bit and some of the backbenchers are toning down.

“It probably makes a fair difference to what you feel, that something may be going to happen, instead of just feeling abandoned and left in silence.”

Mr Grey said the live export industry was essential to the future of the northern cattle industry.

Calls for the establishment of northern meatworks to provide boxed beef into live export markets were not the solution because history had proven that northern Australia was too seasonal to sustain a viable meat processing trade.

“As a pastoralist in the north, it is virtually our only market, not just live export but Indonesia in particular.

“That is the way we have been gearing our whole operation (towards supplying 350kg cattle) because that is what Indonesia wanted.

“There was a lot of crying last year when the 350kg restriction was enforced.

“That was a shock but everyone accepted it and began dropping down and selling earlier so they didn’t get caught.

“When you get a wet they can put on a lot of weight so at the end of the season you are not keeping what you know will be too heavy next year.” 

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