Friday, April 16, 2010

RM40m swiftlet farm for Sarawak coastal town

By Desmond Davidson

KUCHING: The State Economic Development Corporation and Borneo Resource Synergy Sdn Bhd will jointly develop Sarawak's first swiftlet eco-park in the coastal town of Balingian in Mukah division. Yesterday, SEDC and BRS inked a RM40 million joint- venture agreement to develop the park at a site 15km from Balingian. They are hoping to start operations by next year.

SEDC will hold 20 per cent of the equity with the remainder held by BRS. The project would involve the construction of 40 three-storey terrace houses, measuring 20ft by 80ft, and 15 three-storey bungalow units, measuring 35ft by 63ft on an 8-ha site exclusively for the swiftlets. "This (eco-park) will be the start of an orderly, large and systematic development of the bird's nest industry in Sarawak," SEDC chairman Datuk Talip Zulpilip, who witnessed the signing, said.

Talip, who is also the state's assistant minister of tourism and heritage, said SEDC would also be on the lookout for other partners to open more such parks in other parts of the state. Bird's nest farming is a lucrative investment. One kilogramme of unprocessed bird's nest currently fetches between RM4,000 and RM5,000.

This lucrative return is the reason why many entrepreneurs in the state wanted to invest in bird's nest farming, Talip said. However, many started their swiftlet farms by converting empty shoplots in urban and residential areas into birdhouses which contravened the Wildlife Protection (Edible Bird's Nest) Rules 2006. This had resulted in a crackdown by the authorities that saw swiftlet farms in urban and residential areas either had to be moved out or shut down.

In a statement released at the signing, SEDC said it had been tasked by the government to spearhead a "well-planned, sustainable and eco-friendly swiftlet farming industry in the state". It added that JV projects, like the one with BRS, would provide alternative venues to swiftlet farmers who were affected by the government's directive to shift their operation to approved sites.

BRS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a peninsula-based company, Masmeyer Holdings Sdn Bhd. Masmeyer's principal businesses are property development and investment holding. The services of Golden Swift Resources Sdn Bhd, a swiftlet farming expert, will be sought for their technical know-how.

SEDC also disclosed that it had been given approval to turn eight lots of 27.93ha in Mukah division into a swiftlet farm.