March 30, 2010, Tuesday
ALOR STAR: The bird nest industry so far has been the domain of entrepreneurs in Sabah and Sarawak but the billion dollar industry is now slowly picking up in Peninsula.Realising of the huge potential, a businessman in Alor Star, Datuk Mohd Yusof Ismail without hesitation invested millions of ringgit in the swiftlet nest industry that is synonymous with the Chinese community.
Mohd Yusof noted that he became interested in the venture after a casual meeting with the chairman of the Federation of Bird Nest Traders Associations, Datuk Paduka Beh Heng Seong, in Sitiawan, Perak in 2008. “It started as a casual conversation but after hearing Beh’s explanation on the lucrative returns from the bird nest industry, I was convinced that I should give a try.
“Several of my friends who were already in the industry also gave me encouragement saying that the risks on investment are low and also asked me to attend courses related to the field,” said Mohd Yusof, the managing director of Kumpulan Usima.
An initial investment of RM1 million to build two four-storey swiftlet farms in Kuala Rompin, Pahang early last year saw good returns within six months. “This gave me the confidence to invest another RM2.5 million to build five more swiftlet farms in Jerlun, Kubang Rotan, Kuala Sanglang, Padang Sera and Tebengau respectively.
The farms were completed recently. “Though in Kuala Rompin alone there are more than 100 swiftlet farms, there is still room for competition and only that the startup cost is high,” noted Mohd Yusof in an interview with Bernama here. The first harvest after six months recorded almost RM10,000 for each farm and one can expect the same returns for the first three years.
Normally, the harvesting is done once every two or three months. After three years, the returns may go up or down depending on the number of birds nesting there. “Based on my experience, each farm can produce up to 3 kilogrammes (kg) of bird nest and their market value is between RM3,600 and RM4,000 per kg for the unprocessed nest and the processed ones can fetch twice more. “Currently the bird nests are sold raw as there is no expertise to process them,” said Mohd Yusof who has a list of regular buyers.
According to Mohd Yusof, the revenue would be affected at times when the birds migrate but there are ways to entice them to continue staying in their farms. The design of the nesting building especially the entrance helps in retaining the birds along with the right temperature and level of humidity within and the calls to lure in the swiftlets, he said.
It is not difficult to take care of the birds and there is no need to feed them. The only problem is that the nests get stolen even before the owners can harvest them. “There was one I found a rope used to climb into one of the swiftlet farm building in Kuala Rompin. It is definitely the work of those in the know,” he said.
Lizards, ants and other insects too pose a threat especially when the birds are brooding but these pests can be rid off with the right pesticide. However, the swiftlets are sensitive to the presence of owls that often eat their young when the adult birds leave the nest at night to look for food. “I’m planning to open a bird nest exhibition room within the next four or five years when my business expands,” he said.
Mohd Yusof noted that he is willing to share his expertise with those keen to venture into this field which still has room for more participants. He advised those lacking in capital to consider establishing a consortium to venture into this lucrative industry.
Meanwhile, Beh noted that the bird nest industry in Malaysia has a bright future looking at the demand and the price of the product. “The bird nests from Malaysia is highly sought after in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, surpassing the demand for nests from Thailand and Indonesia, two of the world’s biggest bird nest producers,” he told Bernama. — Bernama