CATTLE producers will remain under mounting pressure in Australia’s north with Indonesia signalling further reductions in import permit quotas for next year.
Indonesia’s 2013 beef quota will be 80,000 tonnes, which equals around 238,000 head of cattle and 32,000t of boxed beef to be exported from Australia.
In 2009, Indonesia’s cattle import numbers hit a historic high of 750,000 which was followed by 520,000 in 2010.
But the export numbers plunged significantly in 2011 after the federal government’s snap suspension of the live cattle trade, due to concerns with animal welfare and slaughter conditions.
With producers and industry already under considerable financial strain and struggling to recover from the suspension, Indonesia’s permits numbers dropped to 283,000 this year, from 410,000 the year before.
The key trading partner of Australia has declared its wants to move more towards beef self sufficiency - but industry analysts believe that move may not be achievable due to practical constraints.
In a statement to Fairfax Agricultural Media late Friday, Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said Indonesia has announced it will begin issuing import permits for 2013 for live cattle and boxed beef in mid December.
“This means producers and exporters that supply the Indonesian market will have certainty heading into the new-year,” he said.
“Like in 2012, the beef import quota for 2013 reflects Indonesia’s move to self sufficiency.
“The initial quota has been announced at 80,000 tonnes - but the need for supply to meet a growing demand means these quotas vary.
“Last year’s initial quota was exceeded, with an extra 7000t of boxed beef allocated.
“Australia has a close trading relationship with Indonesia.
“There is ongoing demand for Australian cattle and beef in Indonesia, especially due to price pressures caused by demand outweighing availability of product.
“Government and industry are working with Indonesia authorities to help meet that growth in demand and ensure a strong trade into the future.”
Indonesia’s original quota for 2010 - of 85,000t, with 283,000 head and 34,000t of boxed beef - was exceeded.
Speaking about reduced import quotas earlier this year, Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association executive director Luke Bowen said the northern cattle industry was starting to “bleed” with particular pain being felt around the industry's fringes.
“As the total numbers contract, the Northern territory tends to hold its numbers to the expense of WA and QLD,” he said.
“We hope the numbers won’t continue falling but if they do the effect will be magnified in the Kimberley and QLD.
“Our position is well understood but there’s a degree of patience that we have to exhibit at the moment.
“There’s some short term pain but we hope we can get through it and believe there’s plenty of long-term value in that trade.”
Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson has repeatedly dismissed concerns about ongoing trade pressures between Australia and Indonesia, due to the government’s hasty ban on live cattle exports in June last year.
Speaking last month, Dr Emerson said there would be no reductions in the live cattle trade.
“You might recall my counterpart and friend (Indonesian Trade Minister) Gita Wirjawan was here (in Canberra) about four weeks ago,” he said to questions from Fairfax Agricultural Media.
“We held a press conference in the Blue Room and asked whether he thought there would be reductions in the live cattle trade to Indonesia, Gita Wirjawan said ‘no, there will be increases in the live cattle trade’, as Indonesians increase their beef consumption from on average two kilograms a year to what Gita Wirjawan considers to be a feasible 20 kilograms a year.
“That’s a tenfold increase in consumption.
“And in order to meet that demand, of course there would be increases in demand for Australian beef into Indonesia.”