This follows outrage from the Indonesian authorities over revelations that Australia had tapped the phones of its President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife, and close collaborators in 2009. Indonesian trade minister Gita Wirjawan, who is also presidential candidate favourite in next year’s election, told foreign journalists in Jakarta last week: “There are other places that can help us with our food security aspirations. We are looking at those possibilities.” This has led to speculation that Indonesia could cut its beef imports in retaliation. It has already suspended military and intelligence cooperation with Australia.
Live cattle exports to Indonesia in September 2013 totalled 12,213 head, reaching a year-to-date total of 247,775 head, which was relatively steady year-on-year according to figures from industry group Meat & Livestock Australia. Indonesia is Australia’s largest live cattle market, absorbing around 45% of all live exports.
Ross Taylor, director of Western Australia think-tank the Indonesia Institute, said he hoped and expected sane heads would prevail as the trade helped Indonesia as well as Australia. He told globalmeatnews.com that “there may be a few bumps in the road, but it is in the best interests of both countries that the livestock trade between the two countries not only continues but increases”.
Taylor said the relationship between the countries was a “partnership made in heaven”, with Australia breeding cattle in its vast land reserves and shipping the animals for fattening and butchering to Indonesia so that Indonesia’s fertile land resources could be used for growing food rather than running cattle to meet its demand for meat.
Thus far, the chairman of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council Peter Kane said that exports had not seen any adverse effects and it was “business as usual” as far as he was concerned.
Taylor added that current exports were only just returning to pre-2011 levels, when a temporary ban was imposed on Australian live exports to Indonesia following a public outcry over the treatment of Australian animals in Indonesian abattoirs.
The Australian minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb is in Bali, Indonesia, today for the ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit, but no bilateral talks with his Indonesian counterpart have been publicised.