In­done­sia raises cat­tle im­ports as na­tion’s beef prices in­crease

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

In­done­sia will is­sue per­mits to im­port another 50,000 cat­tle, the gov­ern­ment said, af­ter beef prices soared and butch­ers went on strike fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce ship­ments from Aus­tralia.

Chief Eco­nom­ics Min­is­ter So­fyan Djalil an­nounced the in­crease late Mon­day, although he did not say over what pe­riod the cat­tle would be im­ported.

“I have given con­sent for the state lo­gis­tics agency to im­port 50,000 live cat­tle,” he told re­porters, adding it was a “short-term” mea­sure.

He did not say where they would come from, but much of In­done­sia’s beef is shipped from Aus­tralia.

Jakarta an­nounced last month that the quota for cat­tle im­ports from Aus­tralia in the third quar­ter, from July to Septem­ber, would be set at 50,000, an 80 per­cent re­duc­tion from the pre­vi­ous three months.

The move came as In­done­sia seeks to achieve self-suf­fi­ciency in its beef sup­plies but it shocked Aus­tralian cat­tle pro­duc­ers, as In­done­sia is their big­gest mar­ket for live ex­ports, and sparked con­cerns that re­cent diplo­matic ten­sions were af­fect­ing trade.

But fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion, there was a sharp in­crease in the cost of beef in In­done­sia, with prices as high as 130,000 ru­piah (US$10) a kilo­gram in some ar­eas. Re­ports said this was up from about 90,000 ru­piah a kilo­gram pre­vi­ously.

The higher prices sparked public anger and prompted In­done­sian butch­ers to be­gin a four-day strike at the week­end.

The de­ci­sion to ask the lo­gis­tics agency to im­port cat­tle marks a shift in nor­mal pro­ce­dure in In­done­sia, as pri­vate im­porters are usu­ally re­spon­si­ble.

Djalil said the gov­ern­ment would also seek to en­sure high prices were not caused by hoard­ing.

Cat­tle trade has long been a sen­si­tive is­sue be­tween the neigh­bors.

In 2011, Aus­tralia tem­po­rar­ily banned ship­ments to In­done­sia af­ter a doc­u­men­tary re­vealed cruel treat­ment of cows in In­done­sian abat­toirs, an­ger­ing Aus­tralian ex­porters and en­cour­ag­ing Jakarta to seek out sup­plies from else­where.

Re­la­tions are cur­rently tense be­tween the na­tions, af­ter the ex­e­cu­tion in April of two Aus­tralian drug traf­fick­ers, and al­le­ga­tions that Aus­tralian of­fi­cials paid the crew of a peo­ple-smug­gling ves­sel to turn back to In­done­sia.

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