Friday, March 26, 2010

Need to ensure safety in swiftlet industry

Need to ensure safety in swiftlet industry
KOTA KINABALU: Swiftlet farming is a lucrative industry but steps must be taken to ensure it does not have a negative impact on the environment and the people. Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang En Yin said there was a need to make sure the activity was carried out in specific areas.

“We have to bear in mind that local authorities do not allow swiftlet farming at shoplots or commercial lots in townships and urban areas as these properties are gazetted for residential, commercial, industrial and tourism purposes.

Lucrative business: A structure use for swiftlet farming in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu.
“They are not zoned for swiftlet farming so I advise those in the industry to wait for the endorsement of the Swiftlet Industry Guidelines (SIG) by the Federal Cabinet,” said Pang, who is also the State Youth and Sports Minister.

With SIG, local authorities could determine the zones allowed for swiflet farming and those involved in the industry would have a set of regulations to adhere to, he added.
Sabah Swiftlet House and Bird’s Nest Industry Association president George Ng had said that the SIG, reported to have the full support of the health, agriculture and agro-based industries and the Housing and Local Government Ministry, was supposed to be tabled at the Federal Cabinet meeting at the end of last month but was delayed.

If accepted, it would give the industry the much-needed framework to operate in a sustainable manner and put Malaysia ahead of leading bird’s nest producers like Indonesia and Thailand, he said.

The guidelines would also provide a framework to supervise the industry in a holistic way in terms of licensing, sampling, production and export particularly to China, he added.
Pang, the Karamunting assemblyman, said he was aware of developments in the industry and stressed he had nothing against the industry.
He pointed out that allowing swiftlet farming in industrial or densely-populated areas could have a negative impact in the health, business and safety aspects.

“We know how valuable birds’ nest are and this could trigger an increase in criminal activities in towns or industrial areas where swiftlet farming is allowed,” he said, adding that people would be worried about the droppings and noise from the birds.

Pang who is also Kosan chairman, said the state agency experienced some setbacks as a result of a swiftlet farm in an industrial area in Sandakan.
Kosan had rented four ground-floor shop lots in an industrial zone in Sandakan to expand its production line and provide jobs for 80 youths in the district.

“The management abandoned its plans after realising that the upper floors were occupied by a swiftlet farmer. Kosan wanted to avoid any health risks to its employees,” he said.
In response to Ng’s claim that the industry could boost property prices in Sabah, Pang said he was not convinced as swiftlet farming could cause the opposite effect.

“Zoning an area for swiflet farming can have a negative effect with property owners disposing their properties and tenants moving away.

An area for human occupation would be taken over by birds and this could cause a whole township to be deserted, he lamented.

Pang said a clean and healthy environment was important for the state’s tourism industry and tourists might feel uneasy if the places they visited had health risks because of swiflet farming.
“We do not want to see swiftlet houses next to hotels, seafood restaurants and shopping malls,” he said, adding that swiftlet farmers should not fall prey to agents or advisers in the industry.
Wait for the guidelines to be drawn up and consult local authorities before setting up business, he said.

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