Indonesia issued 200,000 permits to import Australian cattle during the first four months of the year, and that quota has almost been filled.
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Audio: Stuart Kemp talks about the month ahead for live cattle exports (ABC Rural)
Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association chief executive officer Stuart Kemp said most of the cattle exported from Darwin in April would be shipped to Asian markets other than Indonesia.
“Exporters chose to front-load this trimester and so a lot of the Indonesian cattle permits have been filled already,” he told ABC Rural.
“So there’ll be a couple of shipments to Indonesia in April, but a lot of cattle will go to Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and perhaps Brunei.
“It’ll be smaller volumes going to our smaller markets.”
The industry is expecting Indonesia to issue between 150,000 to 200,000 permits for trimester two (May, June, July, August), but Mr Kemp said it was a complex system that determined the number of permits “and time will tell”.
He also pointed out that the expected arrival of imported buffalo meat from India could influence demand for Australian cattle.
“There’s mixed reports on what impact that will have. Some people think it will have an impact because it’s ideal for bakso balls, but others say it won’t have a large impact because it’s quite gamey and the flavour is not especially desirable to the mainstream public,” Mr Kemp said.
The price for live cattle exported from Darwin has eased in recent weeks, with steers to Indonesia now fetching about $3.50 a kilogram.
With so few ships due out in April for Indonesia, that price is expected to slip further.
“It’s hard to imagine it will go below $3/kg, but nothing is impossible,” Mr Kemp said.
“It depends very much on what sort of volume importers apply for.
“If they’re not after big numbers, and Indonesia issues permits for 100,000 to 150,000 head [in the second trimester], then prices could go sub $3/kg.”
Mr Kemp said supply and demand, as usual, would play an important factor in the price, and sourcing cattle was getting easier as northern Australia headed into its dry season.
“Stock camps are ready to go and a lot of the bigger companies are rolling out after the Easter break I think, so we’ll start to see a lot more cattle become available,” he said.
“It’s been so dry since big rains around Christmas, so road train access will be good and we shouldn’t have trouble getting cattle.”
The livestock vessel Finola is due out of Darwin next week with about 2,000 head on board bound for the Philippines.