Recent problems getting New Zealand beef and lamb into China show why the meat industry needs good access to a balanced portfolio of markets, Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says.
Speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia, Ritchie said choice and "competitive tension between markets" are vital to the future of New Zealand's meat exports.
"That's why the Indonesian and Indian markets are so important."
Ritchie was in Jakarta (late last week) talking with Indonesian beef importers, processors and meat industry trade associations. He was part of a New Zealand trade mission led by Minister Maurice Williamson and Glidepath founder Sir Ken Stevens.
Indonesia's rising economy and growing middle class are driving demand for protein-rich foods such as beef.
But Ritchie said the Indonesian Government's current policy to create a self-sufficient beef industry will not work and may prove to be counter-productive.
Import restrictions imposed in 2010 have reduced the amount of imported beef available, local suppliers cannot meet demand and consumers must now pay much higher prices for product.
Since quotas were imposed, New Zealand beef exports to Indonesia have fallen to twenty per cent of the record highs achieved in 2010.
Ritchie said Indonesia could satisfy its growing need for protein by letting trade "develop and evolve in line with market requirements and demand".
He said Kiwi product will not undermine the Indonesian beef industry as New Zealand has a small and finite amount of pastoral land.
Corruption in the Indonesian meat industry was front page news in Jakarta's newspapers while the trade mission was in town.
An ongoing investigation by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has toppled the president of Indonesia's Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
He resigned after being accused of receiving kickbacks from executives of major meat importing company Indoguna.
Ritchie said the opportunity for Indonesia to secure a long-term sustainable supply of high-quality safe protein from New Zealand may not last much longer.
"Over the last few years, there has been almost exponential growth in demand for our meat from China."
India also recently opened its market to sheepmeat from New Zealand and Australia.
Ritchie said New Zealand can only produce a certain amount of meat and will focus on markets where there is certainty of access.
Ruth Le Pla is in Indonesia on an Asia New Zealand Foundation grant.