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Uncertainty remains for live cattle: MLA

Australia’s livestock body says it is undeniable the live cattle ban to Indonesia has caused long-term financial damage to some beef producers.

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But it is unable to put a figure on it, saying uncertainty still remains within the $300 million industry.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) on Monday released its mid-year forecast, which noted that 203,704 head of cattle were exported to Indonesia prior to the June 7 suspension.

It cautiously expects that number to grow to 300,000 for the remainder of the year, which would be down 221,000 or 42 per cent on 2010 figures.

It also represents a fall of 200,000 head from estimates released in February – before the federal government announced it was suspending all live exports to Indonesia.

The decision followed public outrage over the treatment of cattle during slaughter in Indonesian abattoirs.

“The series of decisions regarding Australia’s live cattle trade to Indonesia since June has made it very difficult to confidently forecast export numbers for the Australian live cattle trade,” the forecast said.

“However, one factor that is unquestionable is the long-term financial impact that the four-week suspension and only slow reopening will have upon the live cattle trade, and those producers and businesses that rely upon it for their income.”

The MLA’s estimate on Indonesian exports this year contrast strongly to the government’s own forecast, which suggested that 278,000 head can still be sent to Indonesia.

But the MLA believes 250,000 head will be sold into other markets, with the Middle East/Africa (140,000 head exported in 2011), China (45,000) and the Philippines (20,000) Australia’s next major buyers.

While the government’s ban was lifted on July 6, the first shipments to Indonesia have yet to leave Australia.

“The actual movement of cattle has taken longer, given the considerable logistics involved in implementing the new system and the disruption to shipping schedules and to stock procurement,” the MLA’s forecast read.

Major exporter Elders expects to load its first shipment of cattle in Darwin around August 6.

Australia’s live cattle exports is expected to hit 550,000 all up this year, down 37.5 per cent on the February estimate.

But there was some good news, with the MLA forecasting the trade to increase incrementally over the next four years.

It expects Australia to be exporting an extra 50,000 head of cattle each year, reaching 750,000 head in 2015.

The peak body wasn’t able to break the number down to individual markets, saying the current situation made it too difficult.

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