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Beef imports in focus on eve of Indonesian presidential vote

Beef Central, 07/07/2014

In the final stages of Indonesia’s presidential election campaign both candidates have pledged to reduce Indonesia’s reliance on cattle and beef imports from Australia.

Indonesians go to the polls on Wednesday to elect their next president to replace retiring Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has completed his final term.

In the final debate of the campaign on Saturday night, both presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto, a former military commander, and Jowo Widodo, a former furniture manufacturer and the current Governor of Jakarta, advocated the importance of phasing out meat and cattle imports.

“What we need to do now is to raise the ability and the capacity of our farmers to increase the amount of livestock in Indonesia,” Prabowo said, according to the Jakarta Globe.

“Indonesia in reality produces quite enough livestock, but the problem is that bringing cows over from East Nusa Tenggara is often more difficult than bringing in cows from Australia.

“This is a major housekeeping problem for us,” he continued, promising the streamlining of the domestic beef industry.”

Joko agreed, suggesting that imports could be phased out within six years via the creation of village cooperatives to manage the cultivation of livestock in a corporate manner.

He also supports the importation of carcases as opposed to processed meat.

“We can bring the carcasses over, and cut them up here. Thus we can have a range of prices … the bakso [meatball] sellers can sustain themselves on these carcasses. Not right now, where everyone must buy the [expensive] meat.”

Nationalistic economic sentiment was always expected to feature prominently in the rhetoric from both candidates as the election campaign progressed, but their comments also have to be balanced against the reality that Indonesia’s domestic cattle industry is currently a long way from being able to satisfy the beef demands of the country’s 240 million people, and imports from Australia remain the most efficient and effective means of filling that gap.

For a deeper perspective on what the election of either Prabowo or Joko could mean for Australia, Beef Cental will run an opinion piece from Indonesia Institute chairman Ross Taylor in tomorrow’s news email.

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