Export numbers hard to get a handle on

29 Jul, 2011 04:00 AM
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Meat and Livestock Australia chairman Don Heatley has advised pastoralists to look for alternative markets for their heavy cattle.
Meat and Livestock Australia chairman Don Heatley has advised pastoralists to look for alternative markets for their heavy cattle.

THERE have been permits for 180,000 head issued for this quarter for live cattle to be exported to Indonesia.

But according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) chairman Don Heatley, there is an expectation exports won't reach that number.

Mr Heatley said if they could get 11 Indonesian abattoirs up to OIE standard as quickly as possible it would still only mean about 40 per cent of capacity would be available.

Mr Heatley admitted he couldn't give an exact number of cattle earmarked for export to Indonesia because he didn't know the capacities of the abattoirs.

He also said he couldn't give an exact date when the first live cattle shipment would leave for Indonesia.

"Where we are right now is that we do have the trade open but we are now working flat out to get the supply chain up to standard and in place," Mr Heatley said.

"Now we know what Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig wants, which are OIE standards, we are just working flat out to get those standards into place."

Mr Heatley said the Indonesian Government right through to the abattoir workers were all positive and keen to improve industry standards.

"The Indonesians have been very good," he said.

"The discussions with the Indonesian Government and industry were positive and everybody wants to see a change."

He said it was still important the Australian Government and the Australian industry walked a fine line when trying to implement changes, because they were still working in a sovereign country.

"We are acutely aware we are working in their country and not ours," he said.

"It isn't up to us to demand these standards.

"The OIE standards was a good starting point for discussions because the Indonesians are keen to meet those standards."

Mr Heatley also admitted pastoralists were faced with a difficult challenge with cattle now being too heavy for the Indonesian market.

"The weight limit was always the awful nagging question that was at the back of people's minds," he said.

"The longer the suspension went on the more cattle would be pushed over the weight limit."

He said there was a real concern for pastoralists because there was no live export alternative at this stage.

"There are some markets which take heavier cattle but they just don't take the large numbers which Indonesia does," he said.

"In a live export sense the alternatives are very limited."

He encouraged pastoralists to make a decision early if they were going to hold onto the cattle or get rid of them.

"This is the difficulty," he said.

"There is really little other opportunity than to truck the cattle south into some other markets and given they are not domestic market-ready cattle it makes it very difficult.

"In some cases and I stress in some cases, they would be feedlot-eligible but in many cases they are probably going to be an animal which is able to be finished in some other backgrounding arrangement."

He said sending cattle onto grass in western Queensland could be a possible alternative for WA and Northern Territory pastoralists.

"They could send them to western Queensland with the intention of selling into the bullock market," he said.

"What I am suggesting is producers stop and think about those options rather than get to a situation at the end of the year when the season may be walking away from them and there is pressure on."

He said some of the cattle which were overweight may be suited to the bullock market but there was limited opportunities.

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READER COMMENTS

Nicky
31/07/2011 3:42:42 PM, on Farm Weekly

Yes, let's find 'other markets' - kike the 73,500 sheep on the Maysora, bound for TURKEY, where temperatures have been 58 degrees and documented evidence of animals left without feed and water. The Maysora caught fire as well. Great idea. As for OIE standards, that's just business as usual as we saw on Four Corners, and have seen all over the Middle East. No great changes as "independent" auditors and vets are employed by the exporters. Does anyone know what 'supply chain' really means? Pretty much nothing, since animals cannot/will not be traced and their treatment will never be safeguarded

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