In its peak year of 2011, Indonesia was a top 10 volume market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports at 17,847 metric tons (mt) with an export value of more than $28 million. With a population of more than 250 million, it was an especially important destination for beef variety meat, ranking seventh-largest in volume (12,582 mt) and eighth-largest in value ($11.4 million). 

U.S. exports plummeted 90% last year when Indonesia imposed severely restrictive import quotas in an effort to bolster domestic beef production. Import permits were cut even further in 2013, and U.S. exports (through May) have reached only 358 mt valued at $3.8 million.

U.S. exporters aren’t alone in their frustration. Indonesia’s imports from all sources plunged from more than 140,000 mt in 2010 to less than 42,000 mt in 2012. Through April, the 2013 import pace dropped another 28%.

 

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Indonesia’s import policies have also kept beef consumption extremely low. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Indonesia’s annual per capita beef consumption (1.8 kg) is dramatically lower than the rate found in most neighboring countries.

In recent weeks, the Indonesian government has faced a backlash from consumers and local media for policies that have contributed to a significant spike in beef prices. This was especially true as the Ramadan holiday (July 9-Aug. 7) approached with beef in very short supply.

Some measures were recently taken to ease the supply situation, but they unfortunately offered little help for U.S. exporters. First, Indonesian trade officials agreed to import an additional 25,000 head of Australian cattle over a three-month period. Officials also decreed that air shipments of fresh, chilled, Prime beef cuts may enter Indonesia outside of import permit limits, but only at three airports and under very specific circumstances – a provision unlikely to be utilized by U.S. exporters.