Live cattle exports to fall short

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Indonesia's appeal for thousands of cattle to ease a beef shortage has failed to create a spike in sales for WA producers.

Shipments from Darwin to Indonesia started flowing this week after exporters scrambled to respond to the call for an extra 25,000 ready-for-slaughter cattle.

It now appears less than half of the cattle required will arrive in Indonesia before an important religious celebration and feast beginning from August 7.

WA-based International Livestock Exports has a shipment due to arrive in Indonesia and another due to leave Darwin after re-directing vessels in response to the call for heavy cattle.

A Wellard shipment of about 5000 heavy cattle, which included some from the east Kimberley, left Darwin late yesterday.

ILE managing director Mike Stanton said there were logistical issues in re-directing shipments and sourcing heavier cattle because of steady sales to markets in Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

WA Livestock Export Association chairman John Edwards said he was not aware of any shipments scheduled from WA ports. "It shows that you just can't turn live exports on and off, something we have said for a long time," he said.

In a surprise move almost two weeks ago Jakarta said it needed extra cattle and lifted the 350kg weight limit on imports.

Beef prices have skyrocketed in Indonesia under quotas which had capped Australian imports for this year at 267,000 head.

The export industry cast doubt on WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston's plan for Canberra to give Indonesia 10,000 breeding heifers a year in return for increasing the annual quota to about 500,000 head.

Coalition shadow agriculture spokesman John Cobb has been discussing an almost identical plan with the industry.

Mr Edwards said there was no commercial protocol for importing breeding stock.

Thousands of Australian breeding heifers have been stuck in quarantine at feedlots in Indonesia for about 12 months as a court battle rages between importers and government. The dispute is believed to be part of a political row involving Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan and Agriculture Minister Suswono.

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