Friday, February 10, 2012

A waiting game

A waiting game


KUCHING: Businessmen and individuals in Sibu are reportedly cashing in on depressed prices of bird’s nests by buying up the product from swiftlet breeders to stock up. Offering around RM2,000 per kg for unprocessed bird’s nests, they hope to resell them at higher prices in anticipation of China lifting its ban on Malaysian bird’s nest products soon.

“These groups are hoping to make big profits if prices return to normal after bird’s nests from Malaysia are allowed to re-enter China,” industry sources said yesterday. Unprocessed white bird’s nests have fallen to an average of RM3,000 per kg from RM4,500 per kg due to weak demand after China banned imports from Malaysia in July last year.

China stopped importing after a high level of nitrate was found in the product. Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Chai Xi was quoted by national Chinese dailies last month as saying that Malaysian bird’s nests were expected to re-enter China in April following efforts by both Malaysian and Chinese governments to resolve the nitrate issue.

A quality inspection management team from China was in Kuala Lumpur several weeks ago to establish a permissible nitrate level. The sources said while most swiftlet breeders were in no hurry to sell at the prevailing low prices, there were those who had to sell as they were desperate for money. 

According to Sarawak Bird’s Nest Supply Association secretary Colin Wong Chung Onn, unprocessed bird’s nests could be stored for up to a year with their qualities maintained under good control of humidity and temperature. Wong said he had heard of groups offering to buy bird’s nests at around RM2,000 per kg but could not verify this. He said it was normal for people to buy goods, including bird’s nests, if they thought these were undervalued and to resell them when the prices went up.“They have to take the risk,” he said when asked. He said Sarawak’s production of bird’s nests had gone up due to the mushrooming of swiftlet houses statewide, especially in central Sarawak. However, he said, the association did not know the number of birdhouses as many operators were non-members. In 2010, the association estimated that there were more than 5,000 birdhouses.

Most new investors are building concrete shophouses to breed swiftlets. Early birdhouses were mostly converted from unoccupied or under-utilised wooden buildings. 

Sarawak’s first swiftlet eco-park in Balingian, Mukah, which will have 40 units of three-storey buildings and 15 units of three-storey bungalows, is expected to be ready this year. Starting this year, local companies exporting bird’s nests to China are required to obtain three quality certifications to ensure that their products met the standards set by the Chinese authorities.

According to Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar, these were the Veterinary Health Mark certificate from the Veterinary Department, Radio Frequency Identification Certificate from Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission and a health certificate issued by the Health Ministry.
China is reportedly Malaysia’s biggest importer of bird’s nest products valued at about RM1bil annually.

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