THE northern cattle industry is again in a state of flux with live cattle exports to its largest market remaining at a stand-still.
For the month of September no live cattle left Australia en route to Indonesia as industry waits for the next announcement of live cattle quota permits from the country.
There was speculation last month that the quota may be brought forward so cattle could continue to be loaded throughout September but that announcement never came.
Permits for the last quarter are set to be announced soon to begin shipments on October 1 for 46,000 head of cattle from the entire Top End.
It is understood cattle are already in live export depots in the north of Australia ready to go but industry is still waiting for the official go ahead.
Broome Elders livestock agent Kelvin Hancey said cattle sitting in depots meant added costs to exporters.
He said the controversial Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) and the lack of permits had made it hard for exporters.
"You can't charter ships on those provisos and in fairness to the exporters, a lot of people talk about the graziers and all that, but without a buyer you haven't got a seller," Mr Hancey said.
"The end result is the people that are buying the cattle have copped it from everywhere including demurrage of ships to cattle in yards and everything else.
"I wouldn't think it would be a very profitable business to be a live cattle exporter at the moment."
Mr Hancey said prices for export steers were at $1.70kg and about $1.40kg for heifers.
He defended the prices saying they were fair and that people needed to think about the costs exporters were currently being hit with.
"I think people need to take a step back and have a look from their (exporters) point of view," he said.
"There has been hold ups with permits and the demurrage of ships along with the added burden of ESCAS and it is fairly intensive for all the compliance.
"People need to take all those things on board.
"The exporter is copping a lot of costs with these systems."
Mr Hancey said the northern cattle industry was remaining positive with shipments for heavier cattle to Vietnam and Malaysia still operating.
"It (the permits) has led to frustration from everybody, there is no resolution from the Indonesian or the Australian Government," he said.
"We are still on the same permit systems and at this stage we are still waiting to be able to export cattle.
"But there is competition on some of the heavier cattle with some emerging markets such as Vietnam and Malaysia and they are still continuing to run.
"At the moment though, it looks like we are going to have a hard year with the feeder cattle."
Mr Hancey said the permits were becoming more and more important as every day passes with the wet season just around the corner.
"The other thing is that the feed is going off," he said.
"A lot of the country has been burnt and the condition of the cattle starts to go off and it's harder to supply the right cattle and weight.
"But overall it is still relatively positive and everybody is just looking forward to 2014."
WA Live Exporters Association chairman John Edwards said it cost exporters thousands of dollars every day a ship was not working and even more money to hold cattle in the export depots.
"It is likened to having a taxi outside your house with the meter running, the costs just continue to build," Mr Edwards said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he would travel to Indonesia within his first 100 days of being in office.
It is expected the future of the cattle industry will be discussed on Mr Abbott's trip.
It has now been eight days since he was sworn in, but who's counting?