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China is expected to import 50 tons of edible bird nests from Malaysia this year after a three-year ban on the product, Malaysian exporters said at a food and beverage show in Shanghai yesterday.
The nests are made from the saliva of small swiftlet birds and are cherished in Asian countries as a healthy food. It's one of the most expensive foods in the world. Top quality nests have been known to retail for US$10,000 a kilogram.
China was Malaysia's top export market for bird nests. It bought 170 tons in 2011 before the ban, accounting for about 90 percent of Malaysia's production, Chua Huai Gen, vice chairman at the Malaysian Bird Nest Importers and Exporters Association, told Shanghai Daily.
The Chinese government banned bird nest imports three years ago due to health concerns over nitrite found in the products. The ban has only been lifted on selected Malaysian producers.
“The Malaysian and Chinese governments worked together on safety protocols to ensure the bird nests are safe for consumption. All Malaysian producers need to follow the regulation,” Malaysia's China ambassador Iskandar Sarudin told Shanghai Daily.
Thus far only eight Malaysian companies are allowed to export edible bird nests to China. There are more 200 producers in the Southeast Asian country. The trading volume is expected to pick up in coming years as the number of eligible exporters expands, according to Chua.