Indonesia to take more Australian cattle

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Indonesia is poised to announce a massive increase in live cattle import quotas in the wake of a visit by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The top-level talks have cleared the way for Indonesia to issue import quotas for 75,000 slaughter-ready cattle over the next three months.

The imports would be in addition to quotas for 46,000 feeder cattle already issued by Jakarta and represent a major breakthrough for the beleaguered Australian cattle industry.

Elders managing director Malcolm Jackman revealed the Indonesian plans, which he said had been confirmed by Australian Embassy officials.

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Mr Jackman was part of a 20-strong business delegation which accompanied Mr Abbott and Trade Minister Andrew Robb to Indonesia, where Elders has a strong market presence and operates a cattle feedlot.

"The Ministry of Trade has issued or is about to issue permits for another 75,000 slaughter cattle to go into Indonesia in the fourth quarter," he said.

Mr Jackman said he received confirmation that Indonesia would clear the way for the extra cattle shipments at a lunch attended by Mr Robb.

Mr Robb met representatives of the Indonesian beef industry last night and is scheduled to visit a wet market and feedlot today. He stopped short of confirming Mr Jackman's figures but gave a strong indication that imports quotas were on the way up.

"We are aware that the Indonesian Government is considering options for increasing the supply of beef into the domestic market," Mr Robb said.

"We understand that this includes a significant increase in imports of ready-to-slaughter cattle and we of course welcome this as a positive development for both countries' industries."

Industry groups said they would not start celebrating until the move was confirmed. There have been mixed messages from Jakarta about the trade since July when it issued an urgent appeal for an extra 25,000 cattle to ease beef shortages which have caused prices to rocket.

Indonesia's push towards self-sufficiency in the beef industry is widely considered a failure but it has been reluctant to restore live imports from Australia to historically high levels.

The former Labor government's snap ban on exports to Indonesia in 2011 over animal welfare concerns has been a major stumbling block, with imports falling from about 500,000 head a year to 271,328 in 2012-13.

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