Indonesia can import beef from India: minister

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa has said that Indonesia should not depend on one country but also on others such as India in importing beef to meet its domestic need.

"I think other countries like India have big potential. Malaysia is importing beef from India," the coordinating minister said on Tuesday.

Hatta said Indonesia could import beef from other countries as long as it revised Law No. 18/2009 on Animal Husbandry and Animal Health where import was done through a country-based system. Through the revision, the country-bases system could be changed into a zone-based one.

In the current law, it is stipulated that Indonesia can only import cattle from countries which are free from mouth and feet diseases like Australia and New Zealand.

"Thus, we cannot import cattle from India. India has a large area. If a certain part of the country has a cattle disease it does not mean all parts of India has the disease," the chief economic minister said.

He denied that the governments efforts to revise the law and seek other exporting countries were to be made because of current spying row with Australia.

"We have to revise it for our own interest, irrespective of the eavesdropping issue. We should not depend on one country but also on others," he said.

In connection with food policies, Agriculture Minister Suswono said that as an island country Indonesia should ideally adopt a zone-based system rather than a country-based in importing food commodities.

Now the government is revising the law on animal husbandry and health in an effort to prevent the country from violating the law if it adopts a zone-based system for importing food commodities.

"The country-based system will disadvantage us if at a time we cannot export cattle only because we have an island with a disease, while actually other islands we have are from such a disease," Hatta said.

So far,Indonesia has been importing cattle and beef from Australia. Based on the country-based system, Indonesia can import cattle from Australia and New Zealand.

Tensions between Indonesia and Australia increased after media reports that Australian intelligence agencies had wiretapped the private phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other senior officials.

"It is better for the government to stop its livestock imports from Australia as part of its protest against Australias alleged wiretapping of phones of the Indonesian President and other senior state officials," Muhamad Azhari, a member of the House of Representatives (DPR)s Commission VI on trade affairs, said here on Friday.

Indonesias annual imports of beef and cattle from Australia amounted to about $12 billion. Since the trade began 20 years ago, more than 6.5 million cattle have been shipped to Indonesia for slaughter.

It was even reported that the Australian livestock export industry and the Australian Government have invested more than $4 million in improving animal welfare in Indonesia over the past 10 years.