You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.


Insider market intelligence for those who live outside

Key points

  • Indonesian importers stock up after pause in supply due to import issues
  • Comments by Indonesia’s new President-elect Prabowo Subianto raise questions about how his incoming government views Australia’s role in cattle supply.
  • General increases in meat and food staple pricing across the region continue to put pressure on consumer spending.

Disease impact in cattle and other livestock in the region continues to be a headline issue for most countries.

African swine fever continues to wreak havoc in the region with the Philippines particularly hard hit. Prices of pork in the Philippines and Vietnam have spiked in the past two months, putting pressure on household budgets in countries where pork is a common protein source. Lumpy skin disease and foot and mouth disease continue to cause headaches for importers of Australian cattle in Indonesia, with outbreaks in feedlots still occurring. A hangover effect from the Malaysian government’s decision to temporarily ban Australian cattle from being imported to the country last year is a new lengthy quarantine requirement for Australian cattle, which is apparently making imports almost impossible for slaughter cattle.

A cultivated meat producer in Singapore, which had its products approved and available to consumers, has stopped production, following a general trend for meat alternatives globally. This seems to be another good example of well-intentioned businesses being launched based on the desire to make change, without understanding what their consumers want. In conversations I have had around consumer meat choices in the region the cultivated meat products seem to fall in a kind of no-man’sland. If consumers want the taste of meat but don’t want to eat real meat for ethical reasons, they choose tofu or tempeh, which can be easily incorporated into many local dishes. The market segment of people who want something that tastes and feels like meat, is not real meat, but also isn’t tofu or tempeh, seems to be a fraction of a fraction of people.


Darwin $3.50, Townsville $3.30

There was a rush of live cattle ships headed to Indonesia in the past few weeks, finally able to move after import permits were released in mid-February, six weeks later than expected. Several of those vessels, and others that had been waiting at anchorage headed to Townsville to source heavier cattle to fill the six week gap left in Indonesian importer feedlot schedules. Livex steer prices out of the North have increased as buying got back underway in a rush and caught up with the domestic market price increases seen in January.


Steers $4.93kg live weight (IDR 10,340.51 = 1 AUD)

Cattle importers are reporting an increase in the prices of imported feeder cattle from Australia and a diminishing stock of cattle in importer feedlots. The market price for beef is about Rp135,000 ($13.05 AUD) per kilogram from Rp 134,000 per kg last month on average. The carcass price has reached Rp96,000 per kilogram from Rp94,000 per kg last month. However, the lack of a surge in consumer demand, due to rising prices across staple commodities, means beef sellers are willing to sell beef with a smaller profit margin at their stalls. To fill the gap left by the recent import permit issues importers are now bringing in slaughter weight animals to top up their inventories leading into the Indonesian religious festival season.

The Indonesian presidential election has seen Prabowo Subianto, the Defense Minister since 2019, claim a decisive victory with 58 percent of the vote, finally succeeding after two previous attempts. This triumph on February 14 also celebrates Gibran Rakabuming Raka, son of the outgoing President Joko Widodo, as a victor. Prabowo, aiming to transform Indonesia, proposes an ambitious agricultural agenda, including opening four million hectares for farming and expanding biofuel production. His success is generally seen as positive for agriculture and the cattle industry. His plans, however, come with significant financial promises, such as a free school meals program costing up to $US29 billion, raising questions about funding strategies.


Prabowo and his team made comments during the election suggesting that 1.5-2.5 million head of dairy cattle would need to be imported to meet the free meal program’s dairy requirements, but concerningly for Australia, suggested India and Brazil as potential sources for the cattle. Interesting considering Australia has a reputation as a reliable supplier of dairy cattle, right on Indonesia’s doorstep. There are plenty of reasons, both from a commercial and biosecurity standpoint, of why imports from India or Brazil would be very difficult to pull off, but it is obviously notable when the presidentelect voices it himself. A governmentdecreed effort to support the importation of cattle from Australia’s competitors would challenge Australia’s position as the supplier of feeder and breeder cattle. Prabowo won’t take office until later this year, which means we still have to wait some time to see what his policy agenda will mean for Australian exports.

Indonesia’s Vice President, K.H. Ma’ruf Amin, inspected halal slaughter processes at Taylor Preston in New Zealand, emphasising halal certification and Indonesia’s goal for beef self-sufficiency despite import reliance. He made comments about the potential for large-scale cattle production in Sulawesi, Kalimantan and East Nusa Tenggara.

Sulawesi faces a high alert for Jembrana disease, a lethal retrovirus, with a recent outbreak in North Gorontalo. Jembrana is a little known retrovirus that is generally only found in Indonesia. It is especially deadly to Bali cattle breeds with mortality rates of about 20 percent. It has been an issue for local cattle since the 1960s, with outbreaks occurring every few years. Tracking the spread of LSD in Indonesia can be challenging, with conflicting reports of how far east it has reached. Indonesian media reports show outbreaks in Lumajang Regency in East Java, an area less than 150km from Bali. FMD is prevalent as far east as Nusa Tenggara, as reported by the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture. It is curious that the Ministry continues to report zero cases of FMD in Bali, despite cases being reported on islands to either side of the popular holiday destination. The Ministry’s widespread vaccination programs appear to be helping to reduce mortality numbers but, of course, have little impact on the continual spread of both diseases.


Steers $4.65kg live weight (VND16,335.9 = 1AUD) Vietnam celebrated its Tet New Year holidays in early February. This is normally a period of peak processing for Australian cattle and was again this year with abattoirs increasing their kill of Australian cattle by about one third during the period. Prices peaked shortly before Tet and then fell off afterwards, another annual trend for Australia’s second biggest live cattle market. Imported Thai cattle are trading at a premium to Australian cattle at about 79,000 VND($4.83), which is the norm, though there is a bigger than usual gap with the post-Tet lull in trading activity. Beef importers are reporting significant rises in beef prices for some cuts to about 10 percent and a significant shortage of US and Canadian beef in the market.

Over the coming weeks, under Impetus Animal Welfare, I will be conducting training for animal welfare and meat quality, and will discuss environmental protection with abattoir workers and owners. It forms part of an Australia Vietnam Economic Grant to build capability and investment between Australia and Vietnam. It will among other things use the Livecorp VR captive bolt training. While breeding and productivity remain key issues, it is the limited capability and capacity of the abattoir sector in Vietnam that limits any maturing of the sector. Fewer higher volume abattoirs with improved standards is imperative to ensure competitiveness with imported products, as well as securing the trade for Australian livestock when prices are competitive.