Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Keeping bird’s nests industry contamination-free

Posted on March 4, 2012, Sunday

THE rearing of swiftlets that produce the edible bird’s nests is still a largely unregulated commercial activity.
Not so long ago, the authorities launched a crackdown on some urban swiftlet farms, especially in Mukah and Sibu

A bird’s nests production facility could be a wholly man-made house or converted natural relief such as caverns, valleys and cliffs forming the nesting habitat. Supporting facilities could also configured to breed swiftlets through a captive breeding programme, commercialised scientific farming methods, specialised apparatus, mechanisms and techniques.

In essence, the basic requirement is education for all the parties involved – investors, farmers, politicians and licensing authorities – on the dos and don’ts of the industry. Good Animal Husbandry Practice (GAHP) for Swiftlet Ranching is a primary consideration. Indeed, one of the best ways to advance the bird’s nests industry in the country is through the avoidance of product contamination.

China imposed a temporary ban on imports of local bird’s nests in 2010 after allegedly discovering that Malaysia’s product samples contained 200 parts per million (ppm) of nitrate against the standard level of 34ppm allowed by the World Health Organisation.

The Ministry Of Agriculture and Health Ministry can help lift the ban by introducing stringent measures to check contamination. The regulatory authorities should focus on efforts to clean up the nests rather than finding alternative ways to dispose of poor quality products.

And while the government is trying to resolve the China ban, harvesters should also ensure their farms are well-managed and avoid the use of chemicals during processing. 

The industry has also been plagued by over-production due to no importation from China. Prices of harvested bird’s nests had dipped by 50 per cent last year. Good quality products are now sold between RM2,000 and RM3,000.

To arrest the decline, the Health Ministry will launch a campaign to promote bird’s nest-based products among the locals.  Some quarters have suggested imposing a stricter set of rules and regulations to ensure production is contamination-free and safe for export.

If harvesters could ensure the quality of bird’s nests by keeping their farms clean, the value of their products would also to appreciate in tandem. As the bird’s nests industry is a potential money-spinner, the government can encourage and facilitate its development and growth with effective regulations  and supervision rather than a laissez-faire approach.

The industry can earn additional foreign exchange from countries which are traditionally major consumers of the delicacy. In some countries, birds’ nest production has already been commercialised in a big way and production houses are even teaching the modus operandi to prospective investors.

Hopefully, local bird’s nests farmers will work closely with the authorities to bolster its development and growth. Whether approval can be given for the conversion of abandoned and even purpose-built  structures or floor spaces into productive swiftlet farms is a matter for further study.

What really counts at the end of the day is proper control and supervision by the authorised agencies to prevent unnecessary nuisances and inconveniences from swiftlet farming to residential neighbourhood. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib had said it was imperative to match adding value with a high value economy. He specially mentioned the bird’s nests industry as one high value economy concept that could be taken up by entrepreneurs.The other two are seaweed and ornamental fish enterprises.

Najib had also said the bird’s nests enterprise could be carried out on idle land, especially in the east coast of the peninsula. The other states with a history of bird’s nests production were urged to consider exploiting  the potential of the industry by embracing the high value economy concept. We should tap further into the sustainable use of this agricultural resource – edible bird’s nests – in the same manner as rubber and palm oil to boost the economy.

Bird’s nests can be exported either in raw or the finished form. It is an industry which, if properly regulated and managed, can create jobs and generate incomes for the people apart from earning foreign exchange for the government.

No comments:

Post a Comment