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Australia's beef with neighbour, Thai fishermen bracing for storm

By Compiled by RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Southeast asia Philippines Indonesia

Australia's beef with neighbour, Thai fishermen bracing for storm
A round-up of the big new stories to come from China over the last week.

Australia’s beef with Indonesia lessening goodwill between neighbours

The goodwill built up through more than two decades of Australian aid for Indonesia, which this year included a further A$20 million for beef research, has been squandered, according to David Farley, managing director of the Australian Agricultural Company, the country’s biggest beef cattle exporter.

Writing in The Australian, Farley argued that federal government's decision last year to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia, which was prompted by media reports of poor abattoir practices, was impulsive and has had lasting and harsh effects on both countries. 

The effects in Australia are well documented, with millions of dollars in costs, cattle properties going into receivership and hundreds of workers who depend on the export trade losing their jobs​,” he wrote.

Both nations' short-sighted decisions have caused a rapid decline in mutual trust and understanding. We find ourselves in a situation that will have deep and troubling impacts on both countries' beef industries in the next decade, unless addressed quickly​.”

The Indonesian government has its sights on meeting 90% of beef demand from the local herd by 2014—and Farley argued that it is doing so by restricting imports from Australia. This goal is not mutually exclusive to Indonesia's other ambitious target, which is to lift its annual beef consumption from 2kg to 20kg a person over the next 20 years. 

Even if Indonesia sought to chase a more modest target of 3.5kg a person over the next five years, it would still require a 6m head increase in the local herd, to more than 20m head of cattle​.

However, by restricting beef imports, the Indonesian government has caused shortages of beef, which in turn has dramatically inflated food prices for Indonesia's poorest, and has seen beef prices more than double to A$10 a kg in recent months​,” Farley concluded.

Brunei looking to build on its halal certification

Brunei is calling on foreign investors to pump money into its halal certification for the food processing industry to make the sultanate a regional hub.

Because we have limited land, we can carry out food processing here. The planting can be done elsewhere in the neighbouring sub-regions​,” said Yura Kesteria, executive chairman of the Bimp-Eaga trade bloc, which represents the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines East Asean Growth Area.

Investors usually see Brunei as a small market with an equally small population. However, they should look at the wider Bimp-Eaga region, which creates volume for them, Kasteria said.

The Brunei halal logo is preferred thanks to the stringent procedures it entails. We have received strong interest from investors from South Korea, China and Japan, especially in the halal food industry. 

“Brunei could become a processing headquarters, with raw materials like pineapple, banana, palm oil coming from other Bimp-Eaga countries, for vast Muslim markets like China​.”

Philippines pineapple land grab doesn’t please everyone

The Philippine government has offered some 44,000 hectares in Bukidnon province to private companies who are seeking to expand their pineapple operations in the country.

According to reports, fruit majors Del Monte and MD Davao Agri Ventures are among the groups that have expressed interest in acquiring the lands. 

However, the policy is not popular with local famers’ movements. Rahmant Ajiguna, secretary general of the Asian Peasant Coalition, said the plan to expand pineapple plantations in Bukidnon would further threaten the province’s status as major rice and corn producer in the South.

According to Danilo Menente, chair of the provincial chapter of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines: “Farmers… risk losing their farms—their only source of living—to pineapple plantations.”

Thai fishermen bracing for AEC storm

Small-scale Thai fishermen are bracing themselves for potential negative impacts stemming from regional integration under the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), according to the Thai Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry.

Bangkok Post has reported that deputy minister Siriwat Kajornprasart called on small-scale farmers to use raw materials that meet standards and lower their production and logistic costs or risk losing out in regional competition.

"We should review the extent to which the implementation [of Asean integration] affects small farmers​," he said.

Witoon Lianchamroon, director of the non-profit organisation, Biothai Foundation, said aquaculture, along with reforestation and seed reproduction, should remain reserved professions for Thais even after the AEC is formed.

The government's committee on international economic policy had earlier said the issue needed to be thoroughly studied since it was related to food security.

Panisuan Jamnarnwej, president of the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA), said Asean should standardise seafood species such as prawn or shrimp among members.

"I hope it will not be long to see Thailand produce shrimp and ship them to Vietnam or Myanmar for processing with the same standards to lower the cost. It doesn't have to be a GNP of Thailand, but if some money goes to Thai companies, I would be pretty happy as a private sector​," said Panisuan, also a representative of the Asean Seafood Federation.

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