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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        23  March 2011

Indonesia trims beef imports

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Beef may become increasingly scarce next month as the government rushes its efforts to reach self-sufficiency, the Indonesian Meat Importers Association said.

In February last year, the Agriculture Ministry instituted a program to make Indonesia self-sufficient in beef by 2014. As part of the effort, the government dramatically cut this year's quota for beef imports to 50,000 tons, after the country shipped in 120,000 tons in 2010.

Thomas Sembiring, chairman of the association, also known as Aspidi, said by cutting the import quota by almost 60 percent without first securing the domestic supply, the government seems to be rushing and forcing the self-sufficiency issue.

"It's just a political move. By reporting that the import quota was cut that much, they're trying to make it seem like the program is working already," Thomas told the Jakarta Globe. By his estimates, "If there are no more imports coming [this month], in April beef stocks will be empty."

One of the program's main objectives is to cut beef imports to 10.4 percent of the total by 2014. Thomas said the Directorate General of Animal Husbandry had issued import licenses for 24,500 tons of beef in the first half of the year. According to the ministry's Quarantine Agency, 18,000 tons had arrived by the end of February, but Thomas said that would likely be sold out by the end of this month, creating scarcity.

"Even if some importers can get a license by April, it takes about three to five weeks to get the meat into Indonesia," he said.

Thomas also expressed doubts about the government's self-sufficiency program.

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