THE long-term cattle and beef relationship between Australia and Indonesia has a prosperous future based on strong supply chain partnerships and shared objectives regarding animal welfare, productivity and market access.

That’s the conclusion of Cattle Council of Australia CEO Margo Andrae following a week-long supply chain tour of Indonesia in September.

The in-market tour covered all aspects of Australia’s cattle and beef trade with Indonesia, visiting Australian cattle in local feedlots, observing the slaughter of Australian cattle under ESCAS-approved conditions and seeing breeding programs which are helping Indonesia to build its own beef capacity using breeding cattle imported from Australia. 

The tour also included visits to wet market and retail outlets where Australian beef, either locally slaughtered or imported as boxed product, is sold alongside beef from other parts of the world.

“Australia’s beef relationship with Indonesia draws so much of its enduring strength from the many different aspects of trade and long-term collaboration across our supply chains,” Ms Andrae said.

“Our time talking with lot feeders, small holder breeders and other industry representatives across Java, Lampung and Kalimantan made it clear that the appetite in Indonesia to continue to work with Australia remains very strong.”

Ms Andrae, who was travelling with other Cattle Council, MLA and LiveCorp delegates, said Australian producer and exporter representatives sought to assure importers and other Indonesian stakeholders that Australia was committed to the long-term future of the live cattle trade.

“Reliable supply is integral in any trade relationship, so it is understandable that our partners in Indonesia are asking about the future of the live export industry. They are keen observers of Australian politics and media and are still shaken by the 2011 trade suspension,” Ms Andrae said.

“Live export has been in the spotlight in Australia a lot this year, but we’ve been keen to emphasise to Indonesian importers that the live cattle trade continues to enjoy bipartisan support in Australia and that we are working hard to outline the compelling case for the trade to continue long-term.

“Any city commentary calling for a live export ban is made a long, long way from the cattle properties of northern Australia and the feedlots of Indonesia. Suggestions that we could simply process northern cattle domestically is dangerously ignorant of the powerfully positive economic, social and animal welfare imperatives of why the live trade must continue.”

Ms Andrae said live export continues to have great economic importance to the Australian cattle industry. As well as supporting 10,000 jobs across regional communities, it is a critical avenue for ensuring Australian beef is accessible to consumers in dynamic economies like Indonesia.

“The global success of Australian beef is the result of our industry meeting the diverse needs of different markets and customers. Live export gives us the ability to maximise and diversify our market access opportunities in an ethically and economically sustainable way,” Ms Andrae said.

Australia’s 2016-17 red meat and livestock exports were valued at $13.3 billion, with live cattle exports worth $1.2 billion.

Cattle exports are performing strongly in 2018, with August cattle exports finishing just under 108,000 head, bringing the year-to-date total to 680,000 head, 24 per cent above year-ago volumes. For key markets such as Indonesia, year-to-August shipments are up 8 per cent at 360,000 head.

Ms Andrae said the outlook for cattle exports to Indonesia looked even brighter as a result of the recent conclusion of Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations.

“I-A CEPA has added greater certainty for the live feeder and breeder cattle trade and eliminates significant tariffs for both meat and livestock exports. It reflects the way our relationship with Indonesia isn’t just about boxed beef nor the export of cattle for slaughter,” Ms Andrae said.

“Some Indonesian consumers are in a position to buy chilled beef, and I was proud to see quality Australian product prominently on supermarket shelves in Jakarta.

“We are also proud of the way Australian cattle, fed in Indonesia and slaughtered in ESCAS-approved abattoirs, is ensuring Australian beef is affordable for lower income earners while generating economic activity and creating thousands of jobs in local villages and rural areas. Meeting the proud young Indonesians working with Australian cattle in local feedlots was absolutely inspiring.

“Similarly, we’re playing an important collaborative role in helping to build Indonesia’s beef production capacity using Australian breeding cattle, working at government-to-government and business-to-business levels to create economic opportunities and enrich livelihoods.”

Ms Andrae said alignment on animal welfare would continue to be the cornerstone of the relationship, allowing for the progression from ESCAS to the Livestock Global Assurance Program and to effectively manage welfare in breeding programs.

“There is no ‘finish line’ in livestock welfare. LGAP is an important next step in the in-market welfare journey, and updating the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock is important in ensuring transport rules are guided by the latest scientific research in livestock shipping,” Ms Andrae said.

“That’s why investment in the trade through research and development is so important, especially as technology opens up wonderful new opportunities for welfare management and traceability.

“Australian producers expect high standards of care for their cattle throughout the supply chain. An absolute highlight of our tour and something which bodes well for the future was the way the Indonesians we met share the very same values in terms of the welfare of the cattle in their care.”

Media contact: Tom Dawkins (0409 219 527)