Saturday, March 29, 2014

Local raw bird's nest prices expected to recover following lifting of ban

By Jack Wong, The Star.

KUCHING: Local raw bird’s nest prices are expected to recover with higher demand following China’s lifting of the ban on the import of the delicacy from Malaysia.

Sarawak Bird’s Nest Import and Export Association president Liu Thian Leong said with China resuming the import of bird’s nest products, this would help to boost the country’s exports.

“With more exports, the prices of the domestic unprocessed bird’s nest will definitely recover gradually from current levels,” he told The Star yesterday.

He said association members, who numbered more than 100, had been exporting processed bird’s nest to Peninsular  Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, USA  and Taiwan although the volumes had declined due to slower sales.

According to Liew, the raw bird’s nest produced by local farmers currently fetch between RM1,000 and RM2,000 per kilo depending on their grades.

This is a far cry from the good time of as high as RM5,000 per kilo transacted before China imposed the ban in July-2011 following the discovery of nitrite in Malaysian cleaned bird’s nest.

He said top grade raw bird’s nest could recover to RM3,000 per kilo if China permitted the import of the unprocessed nest as well.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Malaysia was the only country given the approval to export bird’s nest to China and that the approval letter from China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine was received on Christmas Day.

Ismail said eight (none from Sarawak) out of the nine companies which were granted a “conditional pass” to export the delicacy to China in June last year had fulfilled the stringent requirements after further auditing by the authorities in China to commence exporting.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is expected to launch the first consignment for China soon.

Liew said one Sarawak-based company, which had earlier received tentative approval to export bird’s nest products to China, could not make it as it had failed to comply with certain exports requirements. They re-submit their application with other two processing plants and waiting to be audit soon.

He is aware that several more Sarawak companies had applied to have their bird houses inspected by officials from China as a prerequisite to export.

According to Liew, long ago the association members relied on importing raw bird’s nest from Sabah and Indonesia besides those harvested from Niah and other caves in Baram for processing in the early years due to lack of supply in Sarawak ( for black nest from caves)

Raw bird’s nest production volume from caves has declined in recent years due to over-harvesting activities which would hurt the industry in the long term.

“However, they are importing much less now as some of them have set up their own swiftlet farms and due to the ban from China” he added.

Motivated by the lucrative returns, many Sarawakians have in recent years ventured into swiftlet breeding as evident by the mushrooming of bird houses, including specially-built shophouses (eco park) in various parts of Sarawak.

Liew said in the past, Sarawak was famous for the centre of bird’s nest processing and the learning centre for Indonesians but the state was now lagging behind Peninsular Malaysia in the development of swiftlet farming due to aggrasive strategies by the west Malaysia and friendly policy as stated in the Garis Panduan 1GP with is not adopted by the state government due to the existing Wild   life Protection Ordinance 1998.

As there is yet one-stop centre being established to deal with licensing of swiftlet farms, those wishing to venture into the industry have to obtain approvals from various agencies, including Forest Department, Land & Survey Department, Health Department as well as the local authorities. 

Licencing of bird's nest farming is currently under Forestry Department while processing plant licencing is under Veterinary Division, Department of Agriculture together with  registration and certification of swiftlet farm for Sijli Amalan Ladang Ternakan (SALT). Department of Veterinary Services  will certified those processing plant with Veterinary Health Mark (VHM) if they meet the minimum requirement of HACCP and GMP.

“Many farmers have applied for licences from the Forest Department to build bird houses on agriculture land but their applications have been turned down due to not meeting the stringent guideline,” said Liew, adding that in Peninsular Malaysia, the Veterinary Department is the leading acency.

He urged the state authorities to strealime and relax the procedures related to the application, approval, construction and operation of swiftlet farms, adding that the move would help boost the development of the industry and generate more revenue for Sarawak.

“With licences, investors could get funding from banks in their venture into swiftlet breeding activities while the authorities could regulate and keep records of swiftlet farms in the state and traceabilty for safe and quality bird nest product,”

Liew said the association had no accurate information on the number of swiftlet farms in Sarawak, reportedly to be in the thousands, and their combined annual production volumes because not all producer registered with them.