Calls for the Indonesian Government to revisit its beef import policies are growing stronger with an estimated 2000 people rallying outside Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture in Jakarta yesterday to protest against current import restrictions.
The demonstration, organised by the Indonesian Beef Committee, was aimed at drawing attention to the problems import restrictions are causing for manufacturers and retailers in Indonesia, and particularly in the capital of Jakarta.
Indonesian Beef Committee representatives have warned that the country is facing a serious beef shortage which could force prices to unaffordable levels during the forthcoming Eid-ul-Fitr holiday period in August.
The Eid-ul-Fitr represents the peak annual period of demand in Indonesia, representing the time when the country’s 240 million strong, Muslim-dominated population eats beef as a tradition.
The Indonesian Government reduced boxed beef import quotas from more than 90,000 tonnes in 2011 to just 34,000t this year, in line with policies to promote self-sufficiency in local beef production by 2014.
The policy and the shortage of meat it has created has forced cattle prices up which has pleased local farmers, however, it is also said to be encouraging more farmers to sell productive female cattle to meatworks, which in turn is working counter to the goal of achieving self-sufficiency.
Yesterday’s rally is the latest in a series of public statements by Indonesian meat importers and processors designed to draw attention to the impacts of import cutbacks on beef supply in the country.
An account of the rally emailed to Australian beef industry stakeholders overnight suggests the event enjoyed some success in drawing the Government’s attention to the issue, with Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister Suswono reportedly inviting a delegation from the protesting group into his office.
The delegation asked the Government reconsider its current import policies. The minister is reported to have agreed to form an evaluation team, which will include industry participants, to review the current situation.
However the same report also pointed to the difficulties that would be involved in convincing the Government to alter its existing import arrangements, based on the significant investment the Indonesian Parliament has made to improve the situation for local farmers. There is a strong feeling the Government may be reluctant to alter import conditions, because such a move could imply that its investment in encouraging greater local production has not worked.
Despite these considerations, the Beef Committee is understood to be planning further protests if the beef supply situation is not improved.
An article on Indonesia’s Detik Finance website quoted Jakarta Beef Committee chairman Sarman Simanjorag as saying that the Government should grant Jakarta a special quota for imported beef, because it relies on 100pc of its beef requirements from outside the city.
Two thirds of the 34,000t meat import quota has been allocated to the first half of the year, and the remaining third to the second half.
Sarman said that under current arrangements, just 8200 tonnes are available for the second semester, which would not be enough to supply requirements for the month of fasting, and Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and the Christmas and New Year period.