The Indonesian Government has signalled its intention to phase out live cattle imports from Australia, dealing a devastating blow to the $330 million industry after six months of setbacks and confusion.
Imports of Australian cattle will be cut almost in half to 280,000 head next year as part of Indonesia's plan to move towards having a self-sufficient beef industry, it was announced yesterday.
The decision has sparked fears other lucrative agricultural export industries may be at risk, in particular sheep and wheat, as calls for the Federal Government to re-establish trade relations with Indonesia grow.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the Nationals believe the Federal Government is to blame for the reduction after placing a temporary ban on the industry after video footage of the mistreatment of animals in Indonesian abattoirs was shown on the ABC.
The Cattle Council of Australia said the big import quota cut would, if realised, have a major impact on northern beef producers.
Nationals WA Federal MP Tony Crook urged Minister Julia Gillard to meet the Indonesian Government which he said was now sending a message it no longer saw Australia as a reliable trading partner.
WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said the suspension of live exports in June did not help Australia's trade prospects in Indonesia but he did not believe the recent move was "payback" for the ban.
Mr Redman said Indonesia's Agriculture Minister Suswono had told him it was striving to become self-sufficient "so (the move) doesn't surprise me". Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said Mr Redman had gained no "market intelligence" during his visits because he did nothing to assist WA pastoralists diversify their export options.
Jack Burton, of Yeeda Pastoral Company near Broome, believed the latest move by the Indonesians was political payback.
"We're pretty concerned about it and in all honesty, the response from the Federal Government was a disgrace," he said.With AAP
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