Australia repopens live cattle trade to Indonesia

July 7, 2011

Australian Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig  has reopened live cattle trade to Indonesia on condition exporters are responsible for the welfare of stock sent for slaughter. 

Although there have been no inspections of Indonesian abattoirs by Australian officials, Senator Ludwig said export permits would be issued only if exporters complied with a new system that ensured individual cattle were tracked and slaughtered under international standards.

The ban, which was imposed after evidence emerged of Australian cattle being treated brutally in Indonesian abattoirs, has devastated the $320 million a year industry and sparked tension with Australia’s nearest neighbour. Senator Ludwig’s decision means Australian exporters can now apply for export licences to start shipping stranded cattle to Indonesia if they meet strict conditions to track animal movements to ensure their humane treatment.

Cattle producers in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia have few other options for selling prime stock.

When we were there last year, Indonesia had changed the rules, reducing the weight of cattle which could be imported and that was putting huge pressure on station budgets.

The change was made because Indonesia wanted to increase domestic production to reduce its reliance on imports. The ban has added impetus to that:

The Indonesian government described the scrapping of the ban as ”great news”.

Deputy agriculture minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said Jakarta is now rethinking its reliance on live cattle imports in the wake of the ban.

He said Indonesia’s recent experiences with Australia show that depending on food imports is risky.

The ban cost Australia 10s of millions of dollars. If Indonesia does manage to increase its self-sufficiency it will have a major impact on Australia and northern cattle producers in particular.

 

 


Not always the lucky country

January 14, 2011

Daytime temperatures never got lower than the mid 30s when we were in the Northern Territory and Northern Western Australia in August and we were very aware of the fire danger.

We were also conscious of humidity but the locals told us this was nothing, it was still the Dry and we wouldn’t know humidity until we’d been there in the Wet.

It was difficult for us to understand what somewhere so dry could be like in the wet. An average rainfall of 800mm ( a little more than 30 inches) is less than half as much again as North Otago’s, but it’s a lot when most of it falls from late November until March.

The stations we visited were geared for both the Wet and the Dry. Calving was timed to coincide with peak feed and allow most stock to be fattened and sold before the rains came. Most workers went away for summer with only a skeleton staff were kept on to look after stock which remained.

It seemed to be a very tough life to us and not just because of the climate. Katherine and Kununurra are thousands of kilometres away from reasonable population centres which could provide domestic markets so cattle was shipped live to Indonesia and exactly what they could sell was subject to changing whims of the government there. It had recently decided it wanted to be self-sufficient in beef in a few years and dropped the live weight of cattle it would accept. That was forcing the stations to rework their budgets and would have a significant negative effect on the bottom line.

But the people we spoke to loved it. They might go over to Queensland for a holiday during the wet but they were always happy to get back home.

They’ll be on holiday now, I hope it’s not in the area which has been flooded.

We often look in wonder, sometimes even envy, at our neighbours across the ditch but it’s not always the lucky country.

Australia was generous in its support for us after the Canterbury earthquake and during the Pike River mine disaster, now it’s our turn to help them.

Most of our banks are accepting donations. Red Cross is sending a team across to help and you can make an online donation here.


Fruit Rots for Want of Pickers

June 24, 2008

Australia is borrowing our ideas to help solve their problems with a shortage of seasonal workers:

FRED Tassone is one of scores of operators of orchards, market gardens and vineyards across the country who cannot find enough workers to pick their produce.

Despite more than 460,000 people being officially unemployed in Australia, the chronic labour shortage in the horticulture industry has reached the point where fruit has been left rotting on trees, and vegetables are left in the ground.

The federal Government is evaluating a recently completed trial of a seasonal workers program in New Zealand, generally regarded as successful by government and industry alike. Soon the sight of Pacific Islanders in fields across Australia may be commonplace.

A decision on a pilot of a program allowing Pacific Islanders short-term visas of up to six months is expected in the next few weeks. Pacific leaders have long advocated the freer movement of labour.

The use of Pacific workers helped orchardists in Central Otago last summer, and also added vibrancy to the community. A group of workers, with beautiful voices, used to busk at Wanaka’s Sunday market.

The mining boom in Western Australia has attracted many people who might once have been prepared to do the hard physical work in the orchards and vineyards.

“It doesn’t matter whether the unemployment rate is 5 per cent or 50 per cent, Australia’s unemployed don’t want to do our work,” Mr Tassone said.

“Unskilled workers can make up to $1200 a week, but Australians just don’t want to do it.”

Jonathan Nathundriwa, 30, from Fiji, who works on a farm next to Mr Tassone’s, said local unemployed people were not interested in the hard physical work required.

On the other hand, the Islanders would be delighted to earn a decent income, Mr Nathundriwa said.

“My family back in Fiji are busting their chops for $10 a day,” he said.

“I would love to be able to give them employment.”

He could also be talking about the dairy industry here.

 Gay Tripodi, who runs stone-fruit operation Murrawee Farms at Swan Hill, in Victoria, said backpackers were not a solution.

“For God’s sake, they’re a nightmare,” she said. “It’s not their fault – most are good kids, but 99 per cent have never been on a farm.

“We need workers who can stay with us for the duration of the season, five to six months.

“We can train them up and then they return to us the following year. We have been really struggling. The situation is dramatic.”

We have a similar problem with people unaccustomed to farms who think they want to work in dairying. It would be great to be able to employ seasonal workers on dairy farms in the same way orchards do. If we could we might look further than the Pacific Islands. We’ve had good workers from Argentina and Chile and neighbours are equally positive about workers from Uruguay.


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