Indonesia raises cattle imports as beef prices soar
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia will issue permits to import another 50,000 cattle, the government said, after beef prices soared and butchers went on strike following a decision to dramatically reduce shipments from Australia.
Chief Economics Minister Sofyan Djalil announced the increase late Monday, although he did not say over what period the cattle would be imported.
"I have given consent for the state logistics agency to import 50,000 live cattle," he told reporters, adding it was a "short-term" measure.
He did not say where they would come from, but much of Indonesia's beef is shipped from Australia.
Jakarta announced last month that the quota for cattle imports from Australia in the third quarter, from July to September, would be set at 50,000, an 80 percent reduction from the previous three months.
The move came as Indonesia seeks to achieve self-sufficiency in its beef supplies but it shocked Australian cattle producers, as Indonesia is their biggest market for live exports, and sparked concerns that recent diplomatic tensions were affecting trade.
But following the decision, there was a sharp increase in the cost of beef in Indonesia, with prices as high as 130,000 rupiah ($10) a kilogram in some areas. Reports said this was up from about 90,000 rupiah a kilogram previously.
The higher prices sparked public anger and prompted Indonesian butchers to begin a four-day strike at the weekend.
The decision to ask the logistics agency to import cattle marks a shift in normal procedure in Indonesia, as private importers are usually responsible.
Djalil said the government would also seek to ensure high prices were not caused by hoarding.
Cattle trade has long been a sensitive issue between the neighbors.
In 2011, Australia temporarily banned shipments to Indonesia after a documentary revealed cruel treatment of cows in Indonesian abattoirs, angering Australian exporters and encouraging Jakarta to seek out supplies from elsewhere.
Relations are currently tense between the nations, after the execution in April of two Australian drug traffickers, and allegations that Australian officials paid the crew of a people-smuggling vessel to turn back to Indonesia. —Rappler.com