Now, the Ministry of Agriculture’s animal husbandry and health department director-general believes the target is in sight.
“It should be achieved in 2022,” said Ketut Diarmita, adding that Indonesia’s cattle population will reach over 23.2 million by that year — sufficient numbers to supply the country and even increase beef exports a little.
Yet it is hard to be enthused by Diarmita’s pronouncement, especially as official Indonesian figures tend to enjoy plenty of wiggle room.
According to one expert, an Indonesia-based meat and livestock consultant with 40 years of experience in the Australian and South East Asian beef industry, even achieving self-sufficiency is pie in the sky, never mind in such a short space of time.
“It’s absurd; it’s so ridiculous that it makes you wonder why they keep saying it,” said Dr Ross Ainsworth. “If you look at history, they’ve been saying it since the Seventies. Every few years there’s a new plan, by the end of which they actually end up with less cattle, then there’s a new bunch of people involved and they say it again.”
Indeed, when Joko Widodo became president in 2014, he immediately announced plans to bring self-sufficiency within five years — the fifth such proclamation in 40 years. This was quickly extended to 2025.
Increasing buffalo imports
It hasn’t helped Indonesia’s livestock breeding industry that the government has been increasing the import of buffalo from India in a bid to keep beef prices down.
Bulog, the Indonesian state food procurement agency, has issued licences to import 100,000 tonnes of Indian buffalo meat this year, almost doubling last year’s total and equivalent to 40% of imports, based on 2017 supply figures.
As a result, there is little motivation for domestic producers to compete, due to the high prices of production in a nation with little pastoral land available and expensive inputs.
Dr Ainsworth predicts that the national herd stands at 10m-12m, meaning it must double in size over the next three-and-a-half years to achieve the official forecast.
Moreover, many of these animals are not available as they are used for draft purposes or breeding, he adds.
His views are backed up by the Indonesian Cattle and Buffalo Farmers Union, which represents producers in the country.
“I think beef self-sufficiency will be difficult to achieve in Indonesia,” said Rochadi Tawaf, its general secretary, adding that the ministry’s “irrational” figures have lulled officials into a false sense of security.