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Exporters struggle to meet Asia's beef demand

Miriam Hall and Virginia Tapp, Thursday October 3, 2013 - 14:19 EST
ABC image
2000 steers wait for shipment in the Karumba cattle yards. - ABC

Exporters will be sourcing as many cattle from North Queensland as possible over the next three months to meet Indonesia's renewed demand for Australia beef.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb announced yesterday that Indonesia is now looking for an additional 75,000 slaughter-ready cattle from Australia.

But producers that normally supply the trade are struggling to keep cattle alive, and not in much of a position to get cattle ready for slaughter.

Including the permits for feeder cattle already announced, the quota for the next three months totals 121 000 head, still only approximately half the amount per quarter prior to the suspension of live exports in 2010.

The chief executive officer of the Australian Live Exporters Council Allison Penfold says that volume of cattle might be hard to find.

"Clearly there are some issues around whether that number of cattle will be available.

"Firstly that Indonesia has been a feeder market and therefore producers have largely geared to provide feeder cattle into that market so to some extent that may make it difficult.

"This coupled with the poor season for north Queensland and the demand for slaughter cattle into Malaysia and Vietnam so there will be some challenges."

Livestock agent Bram Pollack has already started trying to source fat cattle for the additional live export shipments.

He's based in Julia Creek, about 600 kilometres West of Townsville, and says Indonesia have relaxed permit conditions which normally restrict the breed of cattle brought into the country.

Despite this, he still believes there may not be 75 000 Australian cattle ready for slaughter in the next three months.

"I don't think you're going to be sourcing the so-called 75 000 that's been earmarked but this is the start and there is the odd paddock about with heavy steers in it and once again the feedlots are stacked up with Brahman cattle."

Mr. Pollack says the prices for export cattle are favourable at the moment, with steers worth 150 cents per kilogram live weight, and heifers reaching 135 cents.

At this stage, animals quarantined for Bovine Johnes Disease will not be accepted by Indonesia.


© ABC 2013

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