Northern Australia cattle producers welcome lift on Indonesian export ban and restrictions

Northern Australia cattle producers welcome lift on Indonesian export ban and restrictions

Indonesian restrictions on northern Australian cattle have been lifted providing relief to pastoralists who want to see export ships organised quickly to clear a livestock backlog.

Key points:

  • Indonesia has lifted an export ban and restrictions covering seven Australian facilities
  • There have been no detections of lumpy skin disease from cattle in Australia
  • Kimberley cattle producers want to see export ships start up quickly

Cattle producers have been on tenterhooks since July when Indonesian authorities detected lumpy skin disease (LSD) in 13 animals from Australia.

Four facilities were banned from exporting and last Saturday there were more detections in Indonesia in cattle originally from three other registered Australian establishments, including two near Broome.

Those bans and restrictions across the seven facilities were lifted overnight after a week of discussions between the Australian government and Indonesian counterparts.

The restrictions had effectively brought trade with Indonesia to a halt.

LSD is a highly infectious disease spread by insects which can cause skin lesions, fever, loss of appetite, decreased milk production and death in cattle.

A cargo ship in the distance with cattle yards in the foreground

An investigation has found no signs of lumpy skin disease in Australian cattle.(ABC Rural: Matt Brann)

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s investigation into the issue found there was no trace of LSD in Australian cattle and buffalo herds.

The department’s agricultural trade group acting deputy secretary Nicola Hinder said there was no cause for concern for cattle producers as Australia remained LSD-free.

“The department will continue to engage with stakeholders to provide the necessary assurances to our trading partners on our animal health status,” she said in a statement.

Hope for the best

An estimated 50,000 head of cattle in WA alone had been in limbo because of the export restrictions.

Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association chief executive Bron Christensen said the industry had been hoping for the best while planning for the worst as the wet season approached.

“As an organisation KPCA was looking at how we could assist with fodder or transport, getting cattle off the properties,” she said.

“Because obviously in middle of the dry everyone’s done their feed budget based on shifting cattle.

“There are about 50,000 in WA alone, so that’s an awful lot of extra cattle to have on the paddocks.”

Ms Christensen said the organisation was fairly assured exports would get moving and the cattle could be sent off before the big northern rains impacted ground movements.

Image of a man wearing a blue work shirt and cap, he's leaning on a cattle run and starting off into the distance.

David Stoate runs Anna Plains Station south of Broome.(ABC Kimberley: Jessica Hayes)

Pastoralist David Stoate, who runs Anna Plains south of Broome, told the ABC the lifting of restrictions was pleasing but there might still be more to play out.

“There could be a bit of devil in the details so we’ll just wait and see until boats getting going again, that will be the key thing,” he said.

Mr Stoate said the restrictions had been a major disruption and it had not been a good time of year for such a hiccup.

He said it was difficult to know what could be done to prevent similar issues of Indonesian bans when there was no actual disease in Australia.

“It’s probably a case of building better relationships with Indonesia and all the people involved in the supply chain over there,” Mr Stoate said.

“That’ll that’ll take time. They need to have confidence in our systems.

“Hopefully, that relationship building can get going and we can avoid these sorts of situations in the future.”

WA Deputy Premier Rita Saffioti said she was glad the issue had been resolved.

“There seemed to be I suppose a disagreement about our testing and the validity of our testing,” she said.

“I think going forward we have to keep proving that we do undertake our testing and we are LSD (free).

“Moving forward we have to continue strong relations with these countries.”

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