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Indons eye WA cattle stations
Secure supply: Indonesian buyers eye WA cattle stations. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

Indonesian companies, including many owned by the Government, are poised to spend tens of millions of dollars buying stakes in WA cattle stations to secure a beef supply.

The West Australian can reveal that senior officials from Indonesia's investment board, the BKPM, are expected in Australia early next month to consider options.

The BKPM is understood to be anxious to talk to cattle station owners willing to take on Indonesian investment to secure beef supplies for its growing middle class, estimated to be 80 million people.

A senior Jakarta-based businessman, acting as a go-between for big Indonesian agribusinesses and Government enterprises, contacted Perth-based Indonesian businessman Iwan Gunawan to identify opportunities in WA and Northern Territory cattle stations.

The Indonesian Embassy separately approached the WA-based chairman of the Indonesia Institute, Ross Taylor, with the same request. The approaches are understood to be a co-ordinated strategy to reduce the risk of live cattle exports being suspended again.

Last month, four senior Indonesian businessmen and two Government officials toured WA cattle stations from Broome as guests of Indonesian deputy consul-general Syahri Sadikin.

With a population of 250 million, the Indonesian demand for beef is one million slaughter cattle a year.

"Indonesia would like to be self-sufficient in beef but that is very hard to achieve," Mr Gunawan said. "So the businesspeople are planning to invest here in Western Australia and the Northern Territory to secure food supply."

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig suspended the $320 million live cattle trade to Indonesia in June 2011 after ABC TV's Four Corners exposed cruelty in abattoirs.

The suspension was lifted a month later but Indonesia retaliated by slashing Australia's import quota in half. The live export ban helped financially cripple some cattle stations - as many as 20 are up for sale in the NT - and this has left them exposed to foreign buyers.

Mr Gunawan said Senator Ludwig's "kneejerk reaction" offended Australia's biggest neighbour and contributed to its decision to invest in Australian cattle farms.

"If a country has an agreement to supply food, it can't just stop in one day, it has to be discussed at the table with the parties," he said.

"At least if they have their own investments here, they will have a say to minimise future problems."

Mr Taylor said beef prices in Indonesia's wet markets had doubled in a year because of the cut to the Australian import quota, causing inflation and shortages.

WA chairman of the Australia Indonesia Business Council, Phil Turtle, said Indonesian investment in the Australian cattle market would ensure the industry's future.

Any government entity buying rural land would need Foreign Investment Review Board approval.