Thursday, June 22, 2017

BAT7 Reported Swiftlet farming booming in Tatau

SIBU: Without realising it, this is the last leg of BAT7’s two-week roadtrip, which has covered over 2,000km up north and back.

Initially, we planned to head to Sarikei from Bintulu but due to ongoing heavy construction works along the Pan Borneo Highway and also the all-day heavy rain yesterday which slowed our journey, we made Sibu our pitstop in order to meet the deadline.

Along the way, we stopped by at Tatau – a small town about 56km from Bintulu town – for lunch where we discovered a lot of swiftlet farming activities being carried out in commercial buildings. Upon reaching the town, we were welcomed by the bird's chirping – both recorded and natural – of the swiftlets around there.

When asked for their comments, the locals seemed to be oblivious to the noise pollution created by these swiftlets. One of the townsfolk, who preferred anonymity, simply said: “We’re used to it – what can we do; we have to get used to it.”

Another resident, who operates a coffee shop, appealed to the relevant authorities to get rid of these swiftlet farms in commercial buildings for various reasons.

A source close to the matter revealed that such business endeavour was flouting the law.

“Firstly, shophouses should not be used as or turned into swiftlet farms for it is against the law of land or building use in Sarawak.  And secondly, it is operated illegally without licence, which should be issued by the controller of wildlife,” the source told BAT7 yesterday.

The source also revealed that in some towns across Peninsula Malaysia such as in Taiping in Perak, the authority there allowed such activity to take place in commercial buildings.

“But here in Sarawak, we have to be careful as it may pose hazard to public health, especially diseases which can be transmitted by birds. So we have to take preventive measures by stopping this illegal activity.

“So our hope now is for the key agencies to enforce the law,” the source emphasised, adding that swiftlet farming should be conducted at least 10km away from town and conducted on agriculture land in accordance with the present guidelines.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Myanmar’s edible bird nest industry comes home to roost

BOKPYIN, Myanmar (AFP) – The cries of amorous swiftlets echo around the dark room, an unlikely gold mine for traders in southern Myanmar who are cashing in on rising demand for the edible nests from China’s growing middle class.

Dozens of buildings dedicated to the tiny birds have sprung up around Bokpyin in recent years, their grey concrete structures towering over the humbler wooden and brick homes of the town’s human inhabitants.

Every morning and evening the air is filled with high-pitched twitterings blasted from loudspeakers that draw thousands of the swallow-like birds home to roost.

Edible birds nests have become one of the main industries in the town, traditionally known for producing the chewable stimulant betel nut as well as rubber and palm oil.

Traders can charge around $2,000 a viss (equivalent to 1.63 kilogrammes) for the tiny nests – more than the average person in Myanmar earns in a year.

“We started making man-made bird nests (houses) 10 years ago,” said Paing Set Aung, who owns one of the buildings where hundreds of swiftlets make their homes in the rafters.

“Initially there was a house where the birds came to roost by themselves. After that, people started to construct man-made bird houses.”

Most of the tiny white nests, which are made from solidified bird spit, are sold to neighbouring China.

Long considered the reserve of the country’s wealthy elite, who ate them during lavish banquets, they are in increasing demand from middle-class consumers.

Today the global edible birds nest industry is estimated to be worth $5 billion, most of it produced in Southeast Asia.

Myanmar’s exports have surged since 2011 – the year the former junta handed over power to a quasi-civilian government.

“Bird nests are one of the main businesses in Bokpyin,” said local Lin Aung, who built his first house five years ago and is now on his third.

“China is the top buyer of bird nests here.”

When boiled in water the nests dissolve into a gelatinous gloop which is then made into desserts or drunk as a soup or a tonic that is said to prolong life and improve strength. - PHOTOS: AFP

When boiled in water the nests dissolve into a gelatinous gloop which is then made into desserts or drunk as a soup or a tonic that is said to prolong life and improve strength. – PHOTOS: AFP

In Shanghai, restaurants sell dishes made from the nests, known as ‘the caviar of the East’ for hundreds of dollars a bowl

In Shanghai, restaurants sell dishes made from the nests, known as ‘the caviar of the East’ for hundreds of dollars a bowl


Once across the border, the nests are transformed into one of the most expensive foods in the world.

When boiled in water they dissolve into a gelatinous gloop which is then made into desserts or drunk as a soup or a tonic that is said to prolong life and improve strength.

There is little peer-reviewed scientific data showing that nests have proven medicinal properties.

Nutritional studies have shown the saliva to be mainly made up of protein, followed by carbohydrates.

In Shanghai restaurants sell the “the caviar of the East,” as it is known, for hundreds of dollars a bowl.

Many of them cater specifically to women, who believe the nests can help smooth the complexion and make them look younger.

The tonic is also said to help during pregnancy – one of Shanghai’s high-end spas solely for mothers-to-be even has its own restaurant and sells gift bags for as much as 3900 RMB ($566).

Shoppers can also order the products online, including candied birds nests from Myanmar to be eaten as sweets.

“In China, the bird nest has been a really famous and much-loved traditional tonic since ancient times,” Zhang Yi told AFP inside her NestCha restaurant.

“It is mild and a little sweet. It is good for women, the elderly, children and men.”

These luxury products are a far cry from the nests’ humble beginnings on the islands of Myanmar’s southern archipelago.

To begin with they were harvested on the region’s many islands by daring climbers who risked life and limb scaling treacherous cliffs without any safety equipment.

For years the industry was dominated by the Union of Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL), a sprawling conglomerate controlled by the military elites that ran Myanmar for half a century.

But, as in much of Southeast Asia, production has increasingly moved into urban centres.

Locals in the southern city of Myeik started building houses to attract the birds decades ago, then later production spread to Bokpyin and nearby Kawthaung.

There are now more than 130 houses devoted to the swiftlets dotted around the region, according to state media.

Competition for space in Bokpyin between bird nest producers and tourism developers has seen land prices surge to as high as $75,000 a plot in downtown – on a par with parts of the commercial capital Yangon.

Nests are normally harvested three or four times a year, but traders can collect them often as once a month if they are in need of cash.

Producer Aung Kyaw Moe said that, because the swiftlet populations naturally increase as the birds become accustomed to their homes, the industry will only grow in the coming years.

“They are like humans because they come and live here after they get to know the place,” he told AFP, standing next to his tall wooden bird-house in Myeik.

Happy days are back again for bird’s nest traders

KUCHING: With higher demand and lower supply, the bird’s nest industry is now experiencing a boom with a kilogramme of untreated bird’s nest now fetching RM3,000 to RM3,200, and treated ones, RM4,000 to RM6,000.

Sarawak Bird’s Nest Import and Export Association president Liu Thian Leong said prices of bird’s nest have been surging for more than half a year.

“Demand is high now. There are many freelance traders in the market. And these traders have been going around looking for either raw or unprocessed bird’s nest as well as processed ones,” Liu told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He said the ban from China is still on but the regulation seemed to be more relaxed.

“China still insists on certain criteria but in general, these regulations are no longer that stringent.”

“There are now Chinese traders who will make the trip here personally to buy the bird’s nest. Then there are local traders who are exporting direct to China, while others may export to China through Hong Kong, the global bird’s nest centre.”

“Through some ways or some means, our local bird’s nest still manage to get into China. Business is really good now and it is getting better,” Liu said.

Liu noted the low supply of bird’s nest is due to diminishing supply from swiftlet farms in urban areas.

“The production of swiftlet farms in town areas are showing a general decline. This means bird’s nest production in urban centres such as in shophouses are producing less but those in rural areas are showing positive growth. There are many new players coming into the markets while there are some who are phasing out. But in general, this is really a good time for swiftlet farmers,” said Liu.

He said the bird’s flu outbreak in Kelantan during January and February did not affect the bird’s nest industry in Sarawak adversely.

“Traders and farmers in Peninsular Malaysia were affected for a while as bird’s nest import from Peninsular Malaysia to China was banned. However, the whole short bird’s flu incident did not affect Sarawak or damage the market,” said Liu.

It has been estimated that each year, Sarawak bird’s nest traders, through e-commerce or export to China or Hong Kong, export about 60 tonnes of bird’s nest.

In Sarawak, bird’s nest is considered a forest product and the bird’s nest industry has been under the Forest Department. According to Malaysian Agreement 1963, forestry, like land, is fully under the jurisdiction of the state government, independent from the federal government.

Presently, bird’s nest traders or farmers who export through proper channel pay RM50 in tax for every kilogramme. Based on RM50 per kilogramme, it means bird’s nest trading can contribute RM3 million in tax for the state coffers. 

Borneo Post

China lifts temporary ban on Malaysia's clean, edible bird's nest

PUTRAJAYA: As Kelantan is recuperating from the H5N1 (Bird's Flu) outbreak, China has lifted its temporary ban on clean, edible bird's nest imported from Malaysia, confirmed the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS).

Its director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said he's met his counterpart in Beijing recently and the Chinese government had agreed to lift the temporary ban on the import of clean edible bird's nest from Malaysia.

Nineteen bird's nest processing plants will benefit from this move, with an estimated market worth RM134 million a year in China.

"The condition set on us is that all our processing plants must use the heat treatment in processing the bird's nest," said Dr Quaza, adding there must also be training on the proper procedures for the heat treatment."

The Chinese officials had also visited several of the plants, he revealed.

"I will issue letters of certification to all 19 processing plants so that they can start exporting clean bird's nest to China again," he added.

Malaysia is currently the world's second largest producer of bird's nest after Indonesia, producing an estimated 25 tonnes per month.

Based on earlier reports, the swiftlet farming industry is expected to contribute RM4.5 billion to the country’s gross national income by 2020.

However, Dr Quaza said China had yet to approve the import of raw, uncleaned bird's nest from Malaysia.