Visit fails to clear the air on exports

Claire TyrrellCountryman
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Uncertainty still surrounds Australia's exports of boxed beef and live cattle to Indonesia in spite of a visit to the country last week by Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd.

Australia's role in Indonesia's transition to self-sufficiency in beef production by 2014 was discussed during Mr Rudd's talks with Indonesian Minister for Trade Gita Wirjawan and Indonesian Agriculture Minister Suswono last Tuesday.

Mr Rudd's office said Indonesia had requested that Australia invest in building its breeding stock and help to educate its farmers about genetic technologies.

According to media reports, Indonesia has issued permits for 20,000 tonnes of boxed beef from 58 importers this year, which equates to about 60 per cent of its boxed beef quota for 2012. It dropped its live cattle quota from 520,000 to 283,000 head this year.

The move followed upheaval in the industry after the Federal Government's month-long ban on the live cattle trade to Indonesia.

A Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesperson said live export quota numbers were a matter for the Indonesian Government.

"A total of 401,430 head of Australian cattle were exported to Indonesia in 2011," he said. "At this point in time for 2012, the department has sighted 11 import permits issued by Indonesia for 38,900 head of cattle.

"There may have been other import permits issued that have not yet been provided to the department."

Indonesia slashed its boxed beef and offal requirements from up to 100,000 tonnes in 2011 to 34,000 tonnes this year.

Mr Rudd would not reveal whether he encouraged Indonesia to increase its intake of beef from Australia, but said he discussed "ongoing collaboration to improve Indonesia's livestock industry".

Indonesia's per capita beef consumption currently sits at less than 2kg per year.

Mr Rudd said Indonesia aimed to increase its per capita beef consumption to 20kg per year with an intermediate objective of 2kg to 5kg per year.

He said this could be achieved through continued export partnerships as well as investment in Indonesian breeding stock.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said Australia's export quotas for beef going into Indonesia were not set in stone.

"There is no set number of import permits issued by Indonesia; permits are issued to Australia and other importers throughout the course of the year," she said. "In 2011, the beef import quota was initially 50,000 tonnes, but was revised to 99,000 tonnes by year end. In previous years, quota numbers have been revised during the course of the year, based on supply levels and domestic prices in Indonesia.

"We expect Indonesian agencies will continue to review price fluctuations and supply requirements throughout the year, and revise permit numbers accordingly."

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