Farmers urge quick resolution

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

WAFarmers president Dale Park has called on Tony Abbott to do the "smart thing" and apologise to Indonesia to remove any threat to live cattle and wheat sales.

Cattle and grains industry leaders warned of dire consequences for both countries if the row escalated to include trade in agriculture worth almost $620 million to WA in 2012-13.

"Mr Abbott could make this go away by apologising," Mr Park said.

Kimberley cattleman Jack Burton said the industry was worried about the potential impact on Australia's biggest live export market, where demand is growing after Jakarta's recent move to ease trade restrictions which caused beef shortages.

"The industry is just getting back on its feet after the worst year in our history for prices and sales," Mr Burton said.

"Everyone is stressed for income and to have this uncertainty is not helpful."

A shipment of cattle left Darwin yesterday for WA-based exporter Wellard. The Darwin Port Corporation estimates 30,000 cattle will be sent to Indonesia by the end of the week with two more shipments scheduled.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam rejected calls for the Prime Minister to apologise, saying Indonesia needed Australian cattle.

The WA grain industry, including a local trader part-owned by Indonesian company Salim which is Australia's biggest wheat buyer, said a breakdown in exports would be devastating. Plum Grove executive chairman Andrew Young said Australia had to ensure the situation did not get out of control.

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