LETTER: Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association says live cattle exports on the right track

Sir – After last week’s industry and producer tour of inspection of live export supply chains in Sumatra and Java, I congratulated Indonesian industry, importers and Australian exporters on the implementation of the new Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) in Indonesia.  We investigated performance of transport, feedlots and abattoirs across three key regions which account for the majority of the live export trade in Indonesia.

The group included Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) executive, cattle producers, key industry partners and newly appointed Northern Territory Primary Industries Minister Willem Westra van Holthe.
The achievements have been truly outstanding. It has been a pleasure to inspect newly upgraded abattoirs and see them operating quietly, calmly and efficiently, with no fuss, and importantly to the highest welfare standards.

We now see the unprecedented uptake of stunning with over 80% of facilities stunning all cattle pre-slaughter and this will only increase. It’s a credit to Indonesia.
The tour incorporated Australian Livestock exporter Australian Rural Exports (Austrex) who have now exported over 51,000 head of cattle into the Australian Government approved Indonesian supply chains, delivering 100% stunning.

It has allowed the NTCA to get a strong understanding and appreciation of the level of commitment to ESCAS compliance from both Australian Live Exporters such as Austrex and their Indonesian buyers, in this case Pt Agro Giri Perkasa.
While driving a major culture change the cost of compliance with the new ESCAS system has been enormous.

It certainly makes sense for the system to be continually reviewed to ensure that common sense is applied and industry is not made uncompetitive and lose trade, particularly in those countries where there are very viable alternatives to Australian animals. For NTCA Executive and National Farmer Federation delegate Tracey Hayes, this visit has been incredibly satisfying, observing the ESCAS system at work and the obvious significant changes made to improve animal welfare standards.

Ms Hayes said: “This has been my first visit to the Indonesian market since the cessation of the trade and I have been highly impressed with what I have seen.  To stand alongside the slaughter men and observe the stunning and slaughter process has been very reassuring.

“The animals were handled in a calm and low stress manner and the abattoirs inspected opted for stunning, exceeding International OIE standards.

“To me this has demonstrated a commitment by exporters, importers and the Indonesian people to the animal welfare outcomes of Australian animals. The new system is designed for continual improvement and while we may see isolated breaches and challenges in the future this needs to be viewed in the context of, no system is perfect from day one.”
The tour has also been an opportunity to assess the relationship between Australia and Indonesia and get a perspective of the political, economic and cultural drivers behind Indonesian policy.

Relationships play a critical role and we need to be doing a lot more to grow that our relationship with Indonesia. That is why we have had another group of NT producers and their families visiting this week to further a successful student exchange program which started this year.
When we step back to look at it, Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim country, the third largest democracy in the world and an emerging economic powerhouse right on our doorstep.

While our relationship goes back a long way, it is now that we are increasingly seeing the importance of Indonesia as part of our own future, for security, trade and cultural exchange. No other relationship is, and arguably will be, as important as ours with Indonesia.

Despite the fact that our northern beef industry is currently is under extreme and compounding pressure, with increasing debt and diminished cash flow impacting on many producers, with the right policy settings and a focus on building market opportunities, the industry can rebuild and make a significant contribution to growing the northern economy.

Building our trade and social relationship with Indonesia must therefore be a central plank in achieving this objective.

David Warriner

President, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association

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