Indonesia increases cattle permits amid soaring beef prices

A shipment of Australian cattle arrives at the Indonesian port of Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta in 2013. Photo: Eka Nickmatulhuda The cattle, from Darwin, are loaded for delivery in July 2013. Photo: Eka Nickmatulhuda

Australian cattle exported to Indonesia are traditionally “feeder” rather than “slaughter” cattle. Photo: Eka Nickmatulhuda

Jakarta urged to scrap ad hoc permit allocation for live cattle imports

Jakarta: Indonesia will allocate permits for the importation of another 50,000 live cattle that must be ready for slaughter in an emergency measure to combat rising beef prices and protests by butchers and consumers.

The move, which partly reverses a savage cut in permits for the September quarter, was announced after a meeting on Monday night at the presidential palace.

Ministers reportedly also settled on the number of permits to be issued for the December quarter but any decision is pending final approval from Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Indonesia announced a dramatic cut in live cattle import permits last month to 50,000 animals for the three months to September, down from 250,000 in the previous quarter.

The decision shocked the Australian government and the country’s producers, which supply much of Indonesia’s live cattle market. They had expected a quota of about 200,000 animals.

Australian farmers traditionally export “feeder” cattle to Indonesia – animals that are sent to feedlots for six to nine months before being killed at the abattoir.

The new permits are for “slaughter” cattle, those that are ready to be killed. Northern Territory Agriculture Minister Willem Westra van Holthe said he was hopeful Australian cattle producers would be able to meet the demand.

Speaking in Jakarta on Tuesday afternoon after meeting with Indonesia’s Trade Minister, Mr van Holthe was uncertain about whether a new regulatory regime flagged by the Indonesian government would meet strict Australian animal welfare requirements which stipulate that Australian cattle must be monitored from the dock to the abattoir in Indonesia and only be handled by approved Indonesian operators.

“I’ll have to check,” he said. “They will have to go through approved supply chain or the [Australian] export permits won’t be issued.”

Under the new regime, state logistics agency Bulog will manage the 50,000 new beef import licences, instead of the private sector importers. Bulog is not one of the approved operators.

Mr van Holthe’s Queensland counterpart, Bill Byrne, was at the same meeting but was more confident that an satisfactory arrangement can be worked out.

“There are alternative mechanisms deliberately being considered by the Indonesians that will meet the certification requirement [for export approval].”

Both ministers pushed for Indonesia to move to an annual allocation of live cattle permits in what Mr Byrne described as a “frank exchange”.

Indonesia vowed to have a “very close look” at the proposal, Mr Byrne said.

Beef prices have reportedly risen to as much as 150,000 rupiah ($15) per kilo in Indonesia, far above the usual price of 90,000 rupiah.

The price rise prompted Indonesian butchers in Jakarta and Bandung to walk off the job in protest, with the political difficulties for the Indonesian government compounded by angry consumers and food hawkers.

“The reason we staged the demonstration is to paralyse the importers,” Haliman, a butcher at the wet market of Mayestik, South Jakarta, told local news portal detik苏州美甲美睫培训学校. “How can we sell?”

Santoso, a meatball soup seller at the Pisangan area in South Jakarta, said he was losing customers due to the high prices.

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