Indonesia's RNI plans Australian cattle market investment

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - State-owned PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) plans to invest in Australian cattle estates and is targeting live imports of 120,000 heads per year from that country, its chief executive said.

RNI's plans come after Indonesia recently relaxed rules on beef and cattle imports and are part of an effort by South-east Asia's biggest economy to secure supplies and curb rising food inflation.

Shortages of beef caused domestic prices to rise last year and was blamed for a corruption scandal this year in Indonesia.

"We got the government green light on this a month ago and since then we have sent a team to Australia to explore the investment possibilities," RNI CEO Ismed Hasan Putro told Reuters on Thursday. "We are seeking 10,000 Australian cattle per month."

Australia halted live cattle exports in 2011 after the airing of footage showing harsh treatment of animals. The ban was lifted, but Jakarta then imposed restrictions on Australian beef and cattle imports in a bid to become self-sufficient.

Between three or four existing and medium-sized cattle ranches are being sought by RNI, Mr Putro said, adding that one of the ranches purchased would likely be run as a joint venture scheme. The purchases would require approval by Canberra.

"We have no ambition to acquire hundreds of thousands or a million hectares of land for cattle farming in Australia," said Mr Putro, who was unable to give a figure on the size of the possible investments.

RNI currently runs five cattle estates in the archipelago.

Other state-owned firms said to be looking at Australian cattle estates include Perum Bulog and PT Berdikari.