In the wake of a ban on live cattle exports from Australia to Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has stated a number of steps he would like to see taken to minimize the damage inflicted by this ban.
One of the four steps outlined was to speed up progress toward Indonesia achieving self-sufficiency in beef production.
I was disappointed by the knee-jerk reaction of the Australian government when faced with the revelation that some Indonesian abattoirs have a problem with the poor treatment of animals at some facilities and believe that the blanket ban is a bad thing for both countries.
However, this event is also a wakeup call for Indonesia to consider its progress towards self-sufficiency in beef and puts the spotlight on the government’s progress in achieving this goal.
A quick review of the progress made to date begs the question of whether self-sufficiency will likely be achieved by the target year of 2014, or whether it will need to be extended again.
The target completion date for the program, begun in the year 2000, was postponed from 2005 to 2010 and then again to 2014.
The chances of Indonesia achieving self-sufficiency by 2014 are thus questionable.
The program has been subjected to serious planning, with a blueprint and roadmap in place, outlining step-by-step the technical developments required to meet this target.
However, a lack of serious action on the part of executive and legislative arms of government at both the central and local levels has meant that unless changes are made in the near future the target will have to be postponed once again.
So what needs to change?
First, centers for developing superior quality heifers for breeding purposes need to be fostered. Doing so would assist in producing superior quality cattle from superior quality genetics in the parent stock that would in turn result in healthier and better quality animals that would greatly enhance Indonesia’s local meat industry.
Improvements in fertility, which would increase the quantity of cattle, would also be an aim.
This could be assisted by the use of reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, which have the potential to be used more widely and with greater effect to achieve these improvements in efficiency and quality in the beef industry.
Second, there needs to be better strategic efforts in identifying areas of potential to produce better quality cattle. More needs to be done to ensure that the majority of Indonesian cattle are being raised in healthy environments with sufficient land and feed.
Third, a more strategic approach needs to be taken toward selecting which breeds of cattle to focus on. Such breeds as Bali, Brahman, Ongole and Simmental cattle should be promoted.
Fourth, smallholder farmers need access to superior quality heifers, which could be sourced from the breeding centers mentioned above, and be able to breed them in a more efficient way.
A target of one calf per cow per year, more or less impossible for most small holders at present, would become realistic with these heifers that are bred to be more fertile.
Fifth, there needs to be a greater involvement of veterinarians and animal scientists with provincial and district government livestock agencies in managing cattle breeding in the pursuit of the goal of self-sufficiency.
These proposals require collaboration between the government and the private sector.
Hopefully the signing of a memorandum of understanding by six private sector companies and the GAPSI (Indonesian Cattle Breeder’s Association) in March last year will speed up our progress, but that remains to be seen.
I believe if the right institutions, government agencies and companies work together seriously we can return to the situation of 40 years ago when Indonesia was not only self-sufficient in terms of cattle production, but was a net exporter.
Aris Junaidi, Canberra | Tue, 06/14/2011 7:00 AM (http://www.thejakartapost.com)
The writer, a professor in veterinary science at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, is education attache at the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra. The opinions expressed are personal.