AUSTRALIAN buffalo, both wild harvested and farmed, is poised to clawback at least some of the market share Indian carabeef has snavelled in our prized live cattle market of Indonesia.
A method for stunning buffalo while still meeting Halal standards is in the pipeline, which buffalo industry leaders believe will pave the way for Indonesia to return to being a very strong customer.
More than 3000 head of Australian water and riverine buffalo were being shipped each year to Indonesia before the live trade ban of 2011.
Michael Swart, from the Northern Territory Buffalo Industry Council, said the CSIRO-developed stunning technology, currently being trialled in northern Australia, would “set the benchmark for how buffalo could be processed in Indonesia”.
It was hoped it would be in place by the end of the year, which means buffalo live exports would meet Australia’s world-leading Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) for animal welfare standards.
Mr Swart said demand for Australian buffalo overseas was hot.
Since the Indonesia opened its doors to Indian buffalo, or carabeef, last year in an attempt to put downward price pressure on beef costs, the cheap frozen product has dominated the market.
While Australian buffalo could not compete price-wise with Indian buffalo, it would still have big potential because it suited local cooking styles, particularly the popular mince ball dish, Mr Swart said.
It would come in slightly under the price of Australian beef but would still have the same clean, green, safe image, he said.
Last year, a total of 5792 head of live water and riverine buffalo was exported, with Vietnam the main market, followed by Malaysia and Brunei.
That was up several hundred head on 2015 figures, which itself had grown by several hundred head on the previous year.
“We get inquiries from potential overseas customers regularly - it’s not demand holding us back,” Mr Swart said.
Up to 20,000 head could be generated but the majority of wild buffalo were on Indigenous land which required a land use agreement - an expensive and timely process, he said.
Meanwhile, more buffalo farms were starting to pop up, even as far south as NSW.
Many were supplying boutique domestic markets, including small goods and the restaurant trade, demand from which was also on the increase, Mr Swart said.
In October, AACo starting processing buffalo at its Livingstone meatworks.
“They have stepped in slowly, doing one day a month, and we’d like to see that move quickly to one day a week,” Mr Swart said.
Free ranging herd numbers are now in the vicinity of 120,000 to 140,000 while around 20,000 head are farmed for beef.
“Of course, the incredible cattle prices at the moment are not making buffalo production so attractive,” Mr Swart said.
Liveweight buffalo are currently selling for $1.65 a kilogram, a lift on $1.40/kg a year ago but a long way from where buffalo prices sat at just 20c/kg behind cattle before the live trade ban in 2011.