JAKARTA, June 8 (Reuters) - Indonesia imported 220,325 live cattle and 41,578 tonnes of beef this year up to June 5, an agriculture quarantine agency official said on Thursday, as higher cattle prices from top supplier Australia curbed buying.
In comparison, for the full year 2016, Indonesia imported 491,032 cattle and 100,194.8 tonnes of beef, Banun Harpini, head of Indonesia's quarantine agency, said.
The agency did not provide a comparison for imports in the January-June period last year, but the Indonesian Beef producer and Lot Feeder Association (APFINDO) estimated that the country imported around 370,000 cattle in the first six months of 2016.
Imports fell due to price hikes in Australia, according to the association, with prices climbing to $3.5 per kilogram for live cattle, from about $2.80 per kilogram previously.
"The feeder cattle price in Australia is expensive, which combined with the higher cost of fattening them here means the price can't compete with buffalo meat," said Joni Liano, executive director of APFINDO.
Most of Indonesia's live cattle imports are from Australia, but the government has said it plans to allow imports from Mexico, Brazil and Spain in order to contain beef prices.
India is also a big supplier of buffalo meat to Indonesia, and the meat can be a replacement for beef.
Indonesia imported 32,704 tonnes of water buffalo meat this year, as of June 5, already exceeding the 28,483.9 tonnes for 2016, according to the quarantine agency.
Indonesia's trade minister in September removed the country' quota system for cattle imports and replaced it with a new rule aimed at supporting a domestic breeding programme.
The rule stipulates that one out of every six imported cattle must be for breeding purposes. to June 5, 10,387 breeding cattle had been imported, according to the quarantine agency.
Indonesia aims to make its cattle industry self-sufficient by 2025.
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