Australia’s agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced recently that Indonesia had agreed to increase imports of Australian cattle by 25,000 head over the next three months as part of a deal struck between Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd.
The government has said the deal will give a boost to Australian cattle producers, who have been struggling with drought and a tough market since Indonesia introduced strict quotas on Australian imports in 2011.
However, Australian Green welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said the deal showed that the ruling Labor party was “out of touch” with the Australian public, who wanted an end to live exports.
“Labor might think they have placated some angry pastoralists with their decision to boost live cattle exports but they are out of step with the majority of Australians who want to see an end to this cruel trade,” she said.
Rhiannon added that recent cases of animal welfare abuse in live export markets had undermined people’s confidence in the industry and government’s ability to ensure the welfare of animals exported abroad.
She said that instead of trying to boost live exports, the government should be looking to encourage the development of Australia’s meat processing industry and increase chilled meat exports, which would benefit farmers, livestock and the public.
“Growing domestic meat processing for local and export markets will reduce animal cruelty inherent in the live export trade, increase regional jobs and boost Australia’s economy,” she reflected.
Indonesia used to be a primary destination for Australian cattle, but the trading relationship between the two countries collapsed when Australia imposed a temporary ban on exports to Indonesia in June 2011 following revelations that cattle were being mistreated in Indonesian abattoirs.
The ban was lifted in July, but six months later Indonesia announced that it had slashed Australia’s cattle import quotas from 510,000 head a year to 283,000 head a year.
Since then, Indonesia has faced beef shortages and announced in June of this year that it had granted Australian beef an exemption from quotas to boost supplies ahead of Ramadan and the Eid Fitri Festival.
Restoring the live cattle trade was a major part of discussion between the heads of the two nations earlier this month, and the deal struck is thought to be only the beginning.
Fitzgibbon said there would be no weight restrictions imposed on the additional imports, which industry leaders have said suggested there had been a considerable shift in policy by Indonesia.