The conflicting signals often at play in Indonesia have again been highlighted by the country’s contradictory approach to the issue of breeding cattle imports.
During a visit to Darwin in June 2012, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudyhono called on Australia’s cattle industry to export more breeding cattle to Indoneisa, to help the country achieve its then-five-year plan to attain self-sufficiency in beef production by 2014.
More than 10,000 Australian breeding cattle were put on vessels in the ensuing two months, only to be detained in quarantine upon arrival in Indonesia because they were not accompanied by individual certificates of pedigree.
That Indonesia was going to require such information came as a surprise to the exporters who shipped the animals, however, close to two years later, the10,000 breeders remain locked in quarantine facilities.
The imported females were commercial Brahman heifers, not stud animals, but the breeding cattle protocol under which they were imported technically required that each be supported by individual certificates of pedigree documenting at least two generations of breeding.
In a bid to resolve the stalemate the Australian Brahman Breeders Association wrote individual letters vouching for the breeding suitability of each animal, however that failed to assuage the Indonesian officials and their demands for detailed individual pedigrees on each of the 10,000 cattle.
Since that time the issue has become embroiled in court cases between the Indonesian cattle import industry and the Indonesian Government, and the cattle remain held in feedlots under quarantine, where they will remain until the legal processes have run their course.
Most of the breeding cattle have now calved and their progeny are being fattened in the feedlots in which they are being held.
In the meantime, Indonesia’s minister of trade Gita Wirjawan last week announced in the local Bahasa-language media that the country now hopes to to import 187,500 productive heifers this year, and will require that productive heifers account for 25pc of future import consignments.
As ‘productive heifers’ it is understood that these cattle would not require the same individual pedigree information Indonesia required for the female cattle imported in 2012.
The move is a concerning one for importers because if it is enforced, it will require them to buy thousands of imported heifers that are likely to be too expensive for most local Indonesian cattle farmers to buy, and in volumes that will exceed what importers can comfortably incorporate into their own cattle feedlot or palm-based breeding programs.
While the Indonesian Government is encouraging cattle importers to invest in feedlot-based and cattle-under-palm breeding programs, many of the 10,000 cattle currently being held in quarantine were imported to support those very programs.
Indonesian cattle importers are still waiting for official clarification from the Government as to whether the announcement that productive heifers must comprise 25pc of future cattle import orders will be enforced by regulation.
Late last year Indonesia’s deputy trade minister Bayu Krisnamurthi reiterated the Indonesian Government’s desire to see increased local and foreign investment in cattle breeding, processing and distribution in Indonesia.
In addition to breeding technology, Indonesia required investment in modern meat storage and transportation facilities to cope with distribution bottlenecks in the vast archipelago, the deputy trade minister said.
Demand for meat in Indonesia was growing rapidly, he said, adding that although the per capita consumption was still relatively low, it was increasing sharply due to the growing middle-class bracket.
“Considering all the facts, I expect domestic beef consumption to grow by double digits in the next 10 to 20 years,” the deputy trade minister told the Jakarta Post.