Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cattle Footage Highlights Australia-Indonesia Rift

Outrage in Australia over video footage of the treatment of exported cattle in Indonesia is shining a spotlight on a simmering trade dispute between the neighboring countries.

Australian Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig Tuesday suspended live cattle exports to 11 meat-processing abattoirs in Indonesia identified in a television report as abusing the animals before slaughter. The move followed widespread criticism from legislators, animal welfare groups, labor unions and livestock producers over the conduct shown in the video, which depicts the animals being beaten and abused.

Mr. Ludwig didn't name the Indonesian facilities but said he will appoint an independent reviewer to investigate the supply chain for live exports up to and including the point of slaughter and that he reserves the right to add further facilities to the banned list.

While the suspension affects only a small portion of the more than 120 abattoirs that take live cattle exports, it puts the contested beef trade between Australia and Indonesia under further political scrutiny.

In the fiscal year ended June 30, Australia's live cattle exports totaled 873,573 animals valued at 698.2 million Australian dollars (about $744 million), according to Meat & Livestock Australia, a marketing group. Indonesia is the single biggest market for live cattle, taking 520,000 beasts in 2010, or about 60% of total exports.

But Indonesia—which like a number of fast-growing Asian economies has been beset by sharp food-price inflation—has set out a plan to be more self-sufficient for a range of commodities, including beef. Indonesia formally advised Australia in December that it would restrict imports from Australia to 500,000 animals this year, among other restrictions. Indonesia also announced a 50,000-metric-ton limit on total beef imports.



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