Monday, April 12, 2010

Edible bird’s nests show vast promise as money spinner in Sarawak

THE bird’s nests industry in the country is relatively under-tapped albeit enterprising people are already dabbling into the bird-ranging business both for local consumption and export.  Clearly, it’s the recognition of the commodity’s vast commercial potential that has sparked the first foray into swiftlets-farming in Sarawak where the climate and environment are conducive.

Further studies and research are, of course, needed by prospective investors on the best method to develop the industry. Presently, bird-ranging is carried out either through the use of private dwellings or abandoned properties or properly-designated localities away from population centres or housing estates or commercial areas.

Properly planned and implemented, the production of edible bird’s nests can be a lucrative business, and as such, steps should be taken to encourage and facilitate the development and growth of the industry within acceptable environmental parameters.

The industry has the potential to earn Malaysia foreign exchange from countries that are traditionally major consumers of edible bird’s nests. Many Malaysians too consume the delicacy for its much-touted health benefits.

Perhaps plots of land away from the urban scene could be allocated to regulate (and boost) the industry. Clearly, there is a need for proper planning and management. Furthermore, the quality of products both for the domestic market as well as export should never be compromised.

In some countries, production of bird’s nests has already been commercialised in a big way, and potential rearers are even taught how to go about the business.  Other essentials should include commercialised scientific farming methods, specialised apparatus, mechanisms and techniques, managed sustainable harvesting of nests, provision of a safe and secure nesting habitat and a conducive environment to maximise avian population, and safe collection of nests.

Hopefully, the existing bird-nest farmers will work more closely with the local authorities to ensure the smooth development and flourishing of the industry by using the most appropriate methods that respect not only the need to preserve the environment but also the privacy of citizens living in nearby localities where such operation is being undertaken.

Whether approval can be given for the conversion of abandoned and even purpose-built buildings or floor spaces into the productive swiftlets-breeding houses is a matter for further study. However, two immediate pre-requisites are proper control and supervision to avoid unnecessary nuisances, inconveniences and negative impacts on the neighbourhoods.

Thus, with due emphasis on proper management, the potential of the bird’s nests industry could be tapped and promoted as a new agricultural resource to complement rubber and palm oil for the benefit of the country’s economy. Efforts should, therefore, be made to increase production and supply to meet the ever-increasing demand for the commodity overseas. Bird’s nests can be exported either raw or as a finished product.

In economic terms, the industry not only can help create jobs but also bring in more foreign exchange earnings — literally killing two birds with one stone.

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