By Boyd Champness

THE Federal Government is hatching a plan to sell cheaper cuts of Australian meat into poverty-stricken Indonesia.

Federal Minister for Agriculture Mark Vaile has raised the plan with Indonesias minister for agriculture and has received a favourable response.

A spokesman for Mr Vaile told The Weekly Times that grading changes to meat had posed problems for local producers, because Australian customers were reluctant to consume lower grades of meat.

“You can always sell premium cuts, but no-one wants the bottom 20-30% of the carcass, even though its perfectly good meat,” he said.

At the same time, Indonesian consumers are keen to include meat in their diets, but few can afford it because of that countrys financial problems.

Australia is now looking at marketing programmes specifically designed to promote cheaper cuts of meat to Indonesias low and middle-income earners.

Cattle Council of Australia policy officer Ben Fargher told the paper that he was very excited about the move. “This is potentially a very important development for Australian producers because it will increase market share in Indonesia.”

Mr Vaile is holding meetings with local producers to get the Indonesian sales pitch just right.

The promotion campaign is likely to point out that the cuts are good Australian quality at a cheaper price.

The move comes at a time when live cattle shipments to Indonesia have virtually stopped because of the Asian financial crisis.

In 1997, Indonesia took 387,000 head of live cattle, with the majority of those shipments arriving in the first nine months of that year before the true extent of the crisis was known. In 1998, Indonesia took a total of only 22,000 head of cattle.

However, recent reports from feedlot owners reveal that the trade to Indonesia is finally starting to pick up.

A total of 18,000 head of Australian cattle were exported live to Indonesia between October and December, compared with just 5000 for the previous nine months.