Building Timor-Leste

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Mountains of Cash for the Mountains? Cattle by the numbers.

I am no expert in cattle, but I am learning.

The Peace Dividend Marketplace project has done alot of work for cattle owners and dealers in Timor-Leste, and its an important part of the border trade between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. One of our longest standing clients is a cattle agent named “Raflima”.  They talk to us about the partnership with them here.

Here is a photo gallery of a typical cross border cattle deal.

However, there is a bit of a myth about the vast beef eating markets in Indonesia in relation to Timor-Leste. That myth is that equally vast  herds of cattle head that way, and that its easy to do…

Well alot do head that way, but not as many as I thought, and over the past 3 years the numbers have dramatically dropped. At least on an official level. See below for cattle by the numbers – in 2008 1,425 were exported to Indonesia, in 2009 the number dropped to 962, and in 2010 even further to just 643.

Cattle numbers from the Ministry of Agriculture p.1

Cattle numbers from the Ministry of Agriculture p.2

Cattle numbers from the Ministry of Agriculture p.3

Cattle numbers from the Ministry of Agriculture p.4

Why is this?

  1. Is it because the internal market is sucking up supply – certainly there is alot more beef in Dili’s Comoro and Taibessi markets these days?
  2. Is it because the border remains a big obstacle?
  3. Have border passes reduced the requirement for “official licenses”?
  4. Are Timorese prices rising higher than what Indonesian markets want to pay?
  5. Is the price of cattle dropping in Indonesia itself?

Cattle are usually held in small family holdings in Timor-Leste and they represent much of the liquidity in the poorest parts of the country – finding markets for them is a big deal, and improving the herd quality and quantity is an even bigger deal.  I met with some dudes at the Worldbank yesterday who think the same as well.

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  1. Edward Rees says:

    I was told today that the Timorese defence force consumes 10 head a day in Metinaro alone – that is 3,650 cattle/annum. 6 times the current export herd…. when will there be no more cows in Timor-Leste with some serious efforts to develops means to rear more cattle?

  2. ann turner says:

    What is the price these days? I remember you used to be able to get a live beast for around $300 but I’ve heard that it has doubled in recent years. We do know that sometimes people don’t always get their pricing right. And it’s alarming how many cattle the TDF are eating! Are cows a species at risk of extinction here?

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