AUSTRALIAN cattle farmers fear a plan by Indonesia to drastically cut the amount of beef it imports next year will be a massive blow to the domestic industry.
Indonesia will only allow for 280,000 cows to be imported, down from 520,000 permits this year. Live exports to Indonesia are believed to be worth $300 million to Australian farmers.
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Indonesia will also limit the boxed beef it buys from overseas to 34,000 tonnes. Last year, Australia exported 48,500 tonnes of boxed beef to Indonesia.
Indonesia has indicated it wants to be self-sufficient in beef by 2014.
The Cattle Council of Australia president, Andrew Ogilvie, said Indonesia’s decision had dealt the industry a huge blow.
”Industry is pretty disappointed that there has been a reduction but we recognise Indonesia’s determination for self-sufficiency,” he said.
Mr Ogilvie said he did not believe the decision was in retaliation to Australia’s suspension of trade in June.
The live cattle trade was suspended by the Australian government for a month this year after the ABC’s Four Corners program sparked animal welfare concerns. The trade was later reinstated.
The Australian Live Exporters Council chief executive, Lach McKinnon, told the ABC any drop in exports would be massive blow to the cattle industry in the northern states.
”It’ll put us under a lot of pressure and we’ll have to work very hard to get through this,” he said.
”It’s like any of these particular trade issues – it’s about government to government and working through what it is both parties want to get.”
This month the Labor Party’s national conference rejected a push to phase out live cattle exports altogether.
An Agriculture Department spokeswoman said last night import quotas were a matter for the Indonesian government.
”The Australian government remains committed to the live export trade,” the spokeswoman said. ”Over recent years there has been considerable variation in the number of permits issued.
”The Australian government will continue to work with the Indonesian government to support this mutually beneficial trade.’