Live Export

Northern cattle trade to Indonesia sets sail for 2024

Beef Central, 19/02/2024

A consignment of cattle delayed in a pre-export quarantine feedlot since mid-January sailed from Darwin for Jakarta on Saturday following Friday’s belated formal release of 2024 cattle import permits by the Indonesian Government.

Beef Central wrote about the release of permits for 2024 in this article on Friday. 

The Nine Eagle set sail from Darwin to Jakarta on Saturday, one day after the formal release of 2024 cattle import permits by the Indonesian Government.

A further five ships are scheduled to load at ports including Darwin, Townsville and Fremantle this week.

But beyond shipments filling the latent gap caused by a seven-week delay in the issuance of cattle import permits by Indonesia this year, a leading export industry figure says he is not anticipating a major rush of shipments to Indonesia between now and the traditional start of the mustering season in March/April.

“It is still very wet,” Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association chair Nick Thorne said.

“On the floodplain and northern part of the Northern Territory there aren’t as many cattle there as there might usually have been in the past, so there is not a great deal of supply for the moment.”

Mr Thorne said things would have to “dry out pretty well” before large movements of cattle would be possible.

“Those places that can service wet season conditions, they are also very wet.

“You can’t really draw on anything from western Queensland at the moment for the same reason.

“There’s probably 3000 head that are close and attainable now.”

Mr Thorne said traditionally the larger corporate stations don’t start first round musters until March/April, and wet conditions could result in a slower start this year.

Permit volumes

Trade sources with knowledge of permit volumes have told Beef Central that Indonesia has released permits allowing for the import of 650,000 head this year, issued to 28 feedlots.

The number is based on projected tonnages of meat Indonesia believes it will require in 2024, with 650,000 cattle equating to about 114,000 mt of beef sourced from live cattle.

Indonesia has issued permits in the 600,000 plus cattle range annually in recent years, but physical exports have totalled 360,000 in 2023 and 340,000 in 2022.

Some believe the trade may be on track to take 400,000 plus cattle this year, based on improving demand conditions in Indonesia and a drop in northern Australian feeder steer prices from over $5/kg to an estimated $3.20/kg now as the market finds a new level as shipping for 2024 starts this week.

However, with almost two months of the year already over, others have expressed doubt as to whether annual numbers can now exceed the 400,000 head figure.

Indonesian demand returning to stronger levels

Northern cattle exporter Patrick Underwood, speaking to Kerry Lonergan on the Weekly Grill podcast on Friday,  said the big northern wet season created some logistical issues, noting that after big rain in Darwin last week even assembling a small consignment of cattle for Brunei had taken some getting in.

While some producers might not be looking to sell now, he said others were keen to keep their cash flow going.

Additionally some were also keen to sell cattle at this time of year so they could regenerate the paddocks cattle have come out of while there is still six weeks of the wet season left.

Asked if there were likely to be any issues with cattle in northern Australia exceeding specification weights for Indonesian feedlots, Mr Underwood said he did not think that would be the case.

Had the same cattle been shipped to Indonesia four to six weeks ago they would have already put on more weight in Indonesian feedlots than if they were in Australia.

“So what we’re seeing is a bit of a gap in the market,” he said.

“So the importers over there are not going to have cattle for six or eight weeks, so they will be looking for cattle.

“If they were looking for a 300kg animal in early January, and it hasn’t come until late February, and obviously there will be commercial conversations between an importer and an exporter, but I don’t think there will be a problem, and at the moment we will see fairly strong demand for bigger cattle in Indonesia.”

Mr Underwood recently visited Indonesia and said he thought the demand and market conditions there are probably “as healthy as it has been for last three or four years”.






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