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Indo Minister steps up rhetoric on live cattle

The Indonesian agriculture minister Suswano has stepped up his anti-Australia rhetoric, calling for cut backs on the importation of live cattle from Australia due to the ongoing spying rift between the two neighbours.

The Minister has called on the cattle industry to cease imports of cattle from Australia and to give preference to local suppliers. He said the appeal was related to Australia’s snooping on Indonesia.

“Basically it is business-to-business, (and is) the right of businesspeople to chose where they source their meat supplies. However, when the government shows a certain political stance, it would be good if the businesspeople adapt to it,” he said.

Ross Taylor, President of the WA-based Indonesia Institute said that the minister's comments highlighted that tensions remained over the spying issue.

"Minister Suswano is walking a delicate path", said Mr Taylor. "On one hand he wants to appeal to the strong nationalistic sentiment that prevails in Indonesia at present, as there is not much downside for a politician calling for action against a snooping neighbour. On the other hand the minister knows that the live cattle trade between Australia and Indonesia is critical in feeding particuarly the poorer segments of the Indonesian community".

Mr Taylor said that the last time Indonesia severely restricted imports of live cattle from Australia, prices of beef in the local markets increased by over 100% resulting in protests and anti-government reactions.

"The agriculture minister cannot allow this to happen again - particularly in an election year - so pragmatism will probably prevail and the cattle trade will gradually move back towards the 700,000 head per year quota, and more".

Mr Taylor said the trade between Australia and Indonesia is a 'perfect' arrangement and should be used as an example of how partnerships between our cattle industries can achieve very good results for both countries.

"But this trade cannot be 'switched on and off' depending on the politics of the day", said Mr Taylor. "Therefore the sooner the political issues over spying can be resolved, and this industry can be stabilised, then the sooner business can get on with developing partnerships to build on what is already a trading arragement that benefits both countries enormously".

ENDS

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