Indonesia has temporarily suspended the importation of Indian buffalo meat due to COVID-19 concerns. 

Key points:

  • Indonesia has suspended imports of Indian buffalo meat
  • Indian buffalo meat is a cheaper source of protein than Australian beef
  • Indonesia has only imported 13,000 tonnes out of an 80,000 tonne quota in 2021

Indonesia has been consistently importing frozen Indian buffalo meat since 2016 in an effort to provide a cheaper alternative to the more expensive Australian beef.

On Tuesday, the head of government logistics agency Bulog told Indonesia’s parliament “due to the lockdown … plus the development of the COVID-19 virus in India … we temporarily stopped the [buffalo meat] import plan,” chief executive Budi Waseso said, according to Reuters.

The Indonesian Government had allocated import permits for 80,000 tonnes of buffalo meat this year, of which 13,000 tonnes had already landed prior to Ramadan.

But ABC Rural has been told the trade has now come to a complete halt.

A bench covered in beef and buffalo meat with a butcher in the background in the wet market.

Indian buffalo meat is often mixed in with Australian beef at Indonesian wet markets.(

ABC Rural: Lydia Burton

)

Trade complications

Indonesian livestock consultant Robi Agustiar said on top of Bulog’s concern about COVID-19 potentially coming into the country on boxes, the pandemic in India had created serious issues in the supply chain. 

“Bulog said they were finding port operations [in India] quite difficult and logistics from abattoirs to the ports [are being interrupted] due to COVID-19 cases,” he told ABC Rural.

Mr Agustiar said it was unclear how long the suspension would last, but predicted it could be at least three months before trade resumed.

There is sadly no end in sight to the COVID-19 wave in India, with the country last week recording a record number of daily deaths.

Australian cattle penned in an Indonesian feedlot.

Australian live export cattle prices have hit record highs in 2021.(

ABC Rural: Lydia Burton

)

What does it mean for Australia?

Once seen as a potential threat to Australia’s long-running live export trade to Indonesia, frozen Indian buffalo meat has found its niche within wet market systems.

Sources said the suspension of Indian buffalo meat would create a gap in the market, but with boxed beef supplies from Australia and Brazil tight, it was likely the only real option for Indonesia would be to import cattle from Australia.

This would likely keep prices and demand high for cattle out of northern Australia, with feeder steers exported out of Darwin this month fetching up to $4.20 per kilogram.

“This is an opportunity for Australian cattle producers,” Mr Agustiar said.

“But with the price of Australian cattle so high … it’s still very hard for [Indonesian] feedlots to make a profit.” 

Frozen buffalo meat trade between India, Indonesia halted over COVID-19 concerns
Source:
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