Beef import to soar on higher demand as local supply falters

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 09/22/2008 12:41 PM | Business

If meat demand can be used to gauge a country's level of prosperity, Indonesia might just be among those labeled "prosperous".

With local supply unable to keep up with increasing demand, meat imports are expected to jump by at least 25 percent this year, placing Indonesia among the prospective meat markets for Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The Indonesian Association of Meat Importers (APIDI) predicted meat imports would reach at least 80,000 tons this year, up from 64,000 last year.

By the first eight months of the year, the association's members had already flooded the market with 60,000 tons of imported meat.

APIDI chairman Thomas Sembiring said the limited capacity of local beef producers had encouraged companies to import more to help meet soaring local demand.

"Rising meat consumption coupled with limited supply have provided us with more incentives to import," he said.

With a population around 230 million, Indonesians' consumption of meat, including beef, remains low despite a gradual increase over the years.

According to the Agriculture Ministry's directorate general of husbandry, Indonesians' per capita consumption of animal protein last year reached nearly 5 grams, up from 4.2 grams in 2006.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has set a minimum international standard for healthy animal protein consumption of 6 grams per capita per day, equivalent to consuming 10.3 kilograms (kg) of meat per capita per year, 6.5 kg of eggs and 7.2 kg of milk.

Since 2005, Indonesia had gradually increased its dependence on imported beef, Thomas said.

"In 2005, we only relied on imported beef for about 25 percent of demand, but now it's grown to around 30 percent," he added.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, the country is expected to consume about 380,000 tons of meat this year.

Some 72 percent (273,000 tons) of the demand will be supplied by local producers, with the remaining 107,000 tons (including live cattle) mostly imported from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Director general of husbandry Tjeppy D. Seodjana said the ministry still planned to begin importing beef from Brazil this year to help create more competitive prices.

"Prices from those countries (Australia, New Zealand and the United States) are quite high. With more players coming in, we're expecting the prices to drop," he added.

The directorate was still monitoring the quality of Brazilian beef, as the country has yet to be cleared of foot-and-mouth disease, Tjeppy said.

"We might choose beef from Brazil if it's safe to consume. But we're very selective about doing that, and it will be a long process," he added.

Thomas, however, suggested the government reconsider its plan as meat from Brazil was still at a high risk of infection.

"The government has to wait until the country is cleared of the disease. Only then can we start importing the meat," he said.

Thus far, the association has imported beef from Australia, New Zealand and the United States, selling 40 percent of it to industry, including meatball processing plants, Thomas added.

"We also sell the beef to hotels and restaurants."

The association currently has 50 members, most of whom run businesses in Jakarta, Batam and Bali. (ewd)
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