Thursday, August 12, 2010

Swiftlet farmers face two major risks

Borneo Post
SIBU: Swiftlet breeders, especially those in the urban areas, trying to cash in on the lucrative business are making two major gambles, one of which is that they may ultimately remain as unlicensed operators.
EARNING: Swiftlets busy making nests inside a farmhouse.
BIG EARNING: Swiftlets busy making nests inside a farmhouse.

The second is whether their farmhouses can attract their intended guests. Secretary of Sarawak Swiftlet Association Colin Wong said there was no guarantee that they would be given the licence to operate their swiftlet farmhouses. “The risk of not getting the licence to operate the swiftlet farmhouses is always there as a decision on issuance of licences for swiftlet breeding is still pending.

“Swiftlet breeders should therefore brace for the high risks involved,” Wong said when commenting on the big interest in the industry lately. Due to its lucrative returns, many potential investors had poured millions into the industry, hoping to make fast gains within one to two years. The retail price of unprocessed nests (unclean, raw) is between RM4,000 and RM5,000 per kilogramme while processed (clean, raw) is RM10,000 and an average farmhouse can produce about 1kg of bird’s nests monthly.

An officer from Sarawak Veterinary Service headquarters, during a recent seminar on ‘Swiftlet Industry in Sarawak’ had encouraged local people to go into the industry saying it promised good earnings. At present, swiftlet ranching licensing is under the purview of the Forest Department but Wong believed that none of the farmers were licensed. He concurred that more people were jumping on the bandwagon to rear swiftlets and start a business selling bird’s nests.

In the central region alone, it is widely estimated that there are now more than 1,000 swiftlet farmhouses. The bulk of the houses are in Sarikei and Mukah Divisions, with Sibu accounting for more than 100.  Besides the risks of not getting the licence, Wong said the operators should also brace for the risk of not getting the birds to their farmhouses. This is a clear risk as many operators have lamented over their failure to attract the birds. An operator here is said to have invested about RM300,000 to build a two-storey swiftlet farmhouse at Salim Road.

Unfortunately, to date, after more than three months, the farmhouse is yet to attract a singlet swiftlet. “In all types of investment, there are risks involved. And the bird’s nest industry is just one type of investment that carries a substantial amount of risks,” Wong pointed out. He said swiftlet farmhouses that failed to attract the swiftlets after six months would normally be considered a failure.

“However, there are cases where the swiftlets will come after six months. So all hope is not lost,” he added.
Wong said the association is looking into the possibility of holding dialogues for potential swiftlet breeders to provide them with proper guidelines and techniques to attract the birds to their farmhouses.

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