Indo apathy for Joyce

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce's visit to WA last week was met with disappointment from the cattle industry over his apparent indifference to cuts in the Indonesian cattle quota.

Mr Joyce's Statewide four-day selling tour of his long-awaited $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper began at the Broome cattle holding facility, before attending the Agricultural Industry Advisory Council in Bunbury, followed by whirlwind visits to WA industry and political leaders.

While Mr Joyce's primary purpose for the visit was to highlight the positive impact the White Paper would have on WA's $8 billion agricultural sector, he was also repeatedly quizzed during his visit by industry members about his plans to meet with Indonesian officials to discuss the quota cutbacks.

WAFarmers president Dale Park, who met with Mr Joyce for private talks during his visit, said there was a high level of frustration within the State's cattle industry because of Mr Joyce's apparent "playing down" of the importance of the Indonesian cattle trade.

"The size of the trade to Indonesia may only make up a smaller percentage of the nation's total red meat export trade, but it is a fundamentally important part of the WA cattle industry, particularly for northern producers," he said.

But Mr Joyce said getting to Indonesia to discuss the cutbacks was a priority.

"I'm looking forward to getting to Indonesia, but obviously it's difficult with Ramadan going on over there at the moment and they take a week's holiday," he said.

"We want to try and work toward annual permits, rather than quarterly permits, which would give us better market certainty.

"I want to work towards some consistency because working together we can have a good supply chain going in Australia."

Mr Joyce said the cutbacks mostly were related to price.

"Price is a big concern for Indonesia and I think the price of our red meat is an important aspect for us to consider for them because red meat is getting out of reach for many people on the streets of Jakarta," he said.

"It's cattle from the Kimberley that helps keep the price of beef down in Jakarta, and that will be part of the conversation that I have with my counterparts in Indonesia."

Kimberley pastoralist Keith Anderson said he didn't believe the Indonesian cattle quota cutbacks were personal.

Mr Anderson is the owner-operator of 200,000-ha Jubilee Downs Station at Fitzroy Crossing, where he runs 12,000 head of cattle for the live export market.

"Their feedlots may already be full because of Ramadan, so I think Australia is reading too much into the reasons behind their decision," he said.

He said the Federal Government should work towards continuing the good relations with Indonesia.

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