However, the affront to Indonesian pride by Australia’s ban on the trade, apparently without consultation with Indonesian authorities (let alone Australian cattle producers), has set back the trust between the two countries a long way. To act in this way with our closest neighbour, one of the world’s major trading nations since the seventh century, was disrespectful. It provided the perfect incentive for Indonesian authorities to reaffirm their intention to become self-sufficient in beef production, an aspiration that they have held for at least 30 years.Beyond the ethics this also reveals the irrational economics of the Indonesian policy of self-sufficiency in beef production and the costly environmental externalities:
The only way in which this can happen is by cutting down native forest in less populated islands, such as Sumatra, Irian Jaya and Kalimantan in Borneo, thereby providing jobs to the rural poor, stemming the migration to cities and reducing reliance on imports to maintain food security. Indonesian authorities have been settling people from highly populated Java to Sumatra for over four decades, and with United Nations assistance, provided them with cattle from which to make a living. The transition from forest fringe, small-scale agriculture to cattle farming has met many difficulties: disease outbreaks in the cattle, poor productivity, unsuitable ecosystems for livestock farming, soil erosion and lack of forage for the animals.Well, it would be irational if we were a reliable supplier. The Indonesian policy reminds me of a tropical version of Allen Sanderson's satirical call for a coffee industry to replace aoutomobiles in Detroit.