Indons beef up cattle trade

Nick Butterly CanberraThe West Australian

Indonesia has made a snap order for thousands of extra cattle, giving a shot in the arm to WA's struggling live export industry.

In a surprise announcement late on Thursday, Indonesia said it needed an extra 25,000 head of cattle over the next three months in a bid to head off a beef shortage.

Visiting Indonesia two weeks ago, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pushed for the country to lift beef import quotas.

Beef prices in Indonesia are at record highs as the nation stocks up on meat ahead of the annual break in the Ramadan feast next month.

Producers hope the order signals the start of a return to the days of boom live exports that were the norm before the Gillard government suspended the trade because of cruelty concerns in 2011.

The new order has no weight restriction on the cattle, meaning Indonesia needs the animals immediately for slaughter. Normally, Australian cattle are sent to Indonesia at a low weight. The animals are then fed for slaughter.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Agriculture Minister Suswono suggested Indonesia could soon lift imports.

"To increase supply we will import ready-to-slaughter cattle for whatever the market needs because this is an emergency," he said.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said the Prime Minister should be given credit for the new order.

"The previous (Agriculture) minister Joe Ludwig did bugger all," Mr Gillam said. "Then we have Mr Rudd go up there and this has happened."

Mr Gillam said though WA producers would have the cattle available, they could have trouble sourcing shipping at such short notice.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the Rudd Government was keen to work with Indonesia to provide certainty around beef exports.

In 2011, before the live cattle ban, Australia was exporting about 520,000 cattle to Indonesia a year. Before yesterday's announcement, this year's quota was 267,000.

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