AACo wants better relations with Indon

Australia's largest cattle exporter says the nation must work harder to repair relationships with Indonesia following the controversial live cattle exports suspension.

The Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) made an $8.4 million loss in 2012 due to the suspension, which caused a $41 million writedown in the value of its properties in northern Australia.

The federal government temporarily banned live exports to Indonesia in June 2011 after the ABC's Four Corners program broadcast footage showing cattle being mistreated by workers at Indonesian abattoirs.

"The deliberate destruction of the trade and the ascending dollar took the commerce out of the north - we've got to be able to transform it back (by) relationship-building with our Indonesian neighbours," AACo managing director David Farley told reporters on Thursday.

Although AACo traded with the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Europe, and the Middle East, he said the industry needed to work with the federal government to develop a strategy to meet growing Indonesian demand.

"It's a great country. It's got an economy the same size as ours now, it's growing, it has a young population, and more importantly it's got an aspirational population that would like to eat up the food chain - they want more red meat protein in their diet," Mr Farley said.

Mr Farley said the industry had dealt with concerns about animal cruelty.

"We will only put cattle in the market if we can be assured - and we do it through our own audit system - that those animals will be treated humanely and equitably in the process of fattening them and ultimately taking them to slaughter," he said.

The recent heavy rains in northern Australia were a boon for the industry, he said, allowing producers to fatten stocks rather than send them to the market.

Australia is the only country currently building its herd, and 80 million kilos of live meat held back from the market in 2012 will be released this year in order to take advantage of a tighter American market, Mr Farley said.

"Americans live principally off Canadian and Mexican herds, but the severe drought (in the United States) is going into its third year and decreasing the Mexican herd," he said.

"The Canadian herd is decreasing due to the further arable reach of canola crops as the bio-energies come into play, so I think Australia is going to fit very well."

He said the US is aiming to increase global exports even though supply is tight, with growing demand in Taiwan, Korea and India.

AACo had 681,700 head of cattle at December 31, weighing 94.6 million kgs, a 17 per cent increase from the year before.

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