Bumper year predicted for Australian live cattle exports

By Lee Adendorff, in Byron Bay, Australia

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Live cattle exports International trade Export Indonesia Beef Lamb Livestock

Australia’s live cattle exports posted strong growth in 2013, with an 18% year-on-year increase in the 10 months from January to October. According to figures from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Australia exported 650,830 head of cattle during this period, with nearly half (314,879) absorbed by the Indonesian market, Australia’s most import livestock export destination.

In 2014 Indonesia will again play a fundamental part in Australian exports, with predictions that live cattle exports could total 900,000 head, up from the estimated full year 2013 exports of 820,000.

Chairman of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council Peter Cain told globalmeatnews.com said that all indications were for a significant increase in exports to Indonesia. A key development, he said, had been the announcement that the Indonesian government, battling with rising inflation and booming domestic demand, will adopt a pricing mechanism in favour of a quota system this year.

The number of animals imported will depend on the domestic retail price of beef and the government is targeting an ideal price of around Indonesian Rupiah IDR76,000/kg (US$6.30) although Mr Cain said unconfirmed media reports from Indonesia suggested this threshold could be raised to IDR91,000 (US$7.60) thanks to depreciation of the rupiah against the US dollar.

Cain said the mix of exported feeder to slaughter cattle was also likely to change this year, with 70% of cattle destined for feeder stock and 30% for slaughter, a significant increase on recent years. Unconfirmed reports suggest Indonesia could also be looking to increase imports of breeding stock, said Mr Cain.

When questioned about Australia’s ability to supply an estimated extra 300,000 head of cattle to Indonesia this year, Cain said that, despite the devastating drought conditions in cattle-producing regions of Australia, "our exporters are very good at identifying animals to meet demand, and getting them on the boats".

Another factor that may influence the scale of Australian exports this year is the recently introduced Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), implemented in response to public concern over the welfare and slaughter condition of Australian animals exported to other countries.

The scheme obliges Australian exporters to track animals throughout the supply chain through to the point of slaughter in accordance with acceptable standards of animal welfare established by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and can revoke export licences for non-compliance.

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