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Sarawaks Bird Nest Industry

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  • Sarawaks Bird Nest Industry

    May 22, 2009 20:10 PM

    Sarawak's Bird Nest Industry Still In Dilemma

    By Syed Azwan Syed Ali

    KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 (Bernama) -- Probably not many are aware that Malaysia's bird nest industry has grown to RM1 billion per annum in its value following the large scale migration of the edible nest swiftlet from Indonesia about 10 years ago.

    The figure is expected to increase due to the steady demand from China where the bird nest soup is a popular delicacy especially among the well heeled segment of the society.

    Malaysia is the world's third biggest producer of bird's nest after Indonesia and Thailand with an average of 12 tonnes of nests produced monthly.

    The nests made by the edible-nest swiftlet (aerodramus fuciphagus) and the black-nest swiftlet (aerodramus maximus) in Malaysia is said to be of better quality.


    Nevertheless, of late there has been some concerns over the licensing problems of more than 1,500 swiftlet farms in Sarawak that could retard the industry.

    In Peninsular Malaysia, swiftlet farms are allowed to be set up within shop houses and commercial lots in towns according to conditions set, but such setups are not allowed within towns in Sarawak.

    This is because the Sarawak's Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998 does not allow swiftlet farming within towns. At the same time, the state has no guidelines to allow swiftlet farming in towns unlike in Peninsular Malaysia.

    Furthermore the Wildlife Protection Rules (Edible Bird Nests) 1998 and Wildlife Protection Rules 1998 expounds that the species can only be bred in agricultural areas in outskirts other that its original habitat like caves.

    "By right, the state government should support the industry and liaise with the federal government by having a uniform guideline in swiftlet farming," said Koh Ung Leong to Bernama when met in Sibu recently.

    The veterinarian said as the edible-nest swiftlet has high economic value, the industry helps to boost local real estate value and serves as a viable alternative to farmers and fishermen.

    A survey conducted by Bernama found that many swiftlet farms have been set up in special structures and altered shophouses in towns along the coast line in Mukah, Sibu, Sarikei and Bintulu.

    The state's edible-nest swiftlet merchants association earlier had sought the intervention of Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to find a solution for the dilemma following strict enforcement in Mukah since last October.


    Currently there is more than 1,500 swiftlet farms but only two have been licensed by the authorities. This means 99.8 percent of the swiftlet farms in the state is illegal.

    "We hope the state government will prepare a guideline similar to the one in Peninsula. We will fully cooperate with the state to solve this issue," said the pro-tem chairman of the Sarikei edible-nest swiftlet merchants association, Wong Hua Ting.

    On this issue, the state government has two choices whether to centralise swiftlet farming in a particular location by setting up an eco-park or adapt a specific guideline on swiftlet farming.

    "It is impossible to transfer these birds. The swiftlet is not like chicken or duck to be caught and transferred. These birds have made their bird houses as the nest," said the chairman of the federation of Malaysian edible-nest swiftlet merchants association Datuk Beh Heng Seong.

    At present, it is still not clear whether the swiftlets can be transferred moreover it is a species protected under the Wildlife Act 1972. As there are risks of the birds dying during transfer, especially the chicks, it is almost impossible to transfer them.

    The question remains how the state government especially the Sarawak Forestry Department (SFD) and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) will handle the issue without leaving anyone in the losing end including the owners of the swiftlet farms.


    The Director General of SFD who is also Chief Executive of the SFC Datuk Len Talif Salleh stressed that the industry should be developed systematically based on the existing laws.

    "Many of those seeking license are in towns which by the definition of the law they do not qualify," said Len Talif adding that the risks of epidemics like bird flu being the reason why the state government does not want to allow swiftlet farming in towns.

    There were also complaints from the public on the stench from the bird droppings and the din from the speaker to entice the swiftlets to nest in the farms.

    Len Talif also claimed that the setting up of swiftlet farms within towns disrupts business for some especially those in the food business or having stalls near the farms.

    "There should not be guideline to setup the birdhouse in town. This contravenes the law," he said adding that the state government will build an eco-park and provide licenses for individuals keen in setting up the swiftlet farms on agricultural land in the rural areas.


    Many of the swiftlet farm owners see red over the bureaucracy involving the Land and Survey Department, Sarawak Planning Authority (SPA), SFC and the local government as the red tape is a serious impediment in getting a license for swiftlet farming.

    Furthermore as there is no guarantee that the birds will nest in the proposed eco-park, that is why they want the state government to adopt the Veterinary Services Department's Best Practices in Animal Breeding (GAHP) for the swiftlet farming.

    GAHP, which is among the conditions for licensing in Peninsula, has set certain specifications to ensure the swiftlet farms are set up in a conducive and environmentally friendly environment, which among others the noises from the speakers should not exceed 40 decibels and the speaker cone set facing the sky in a 60 degree angle to overcome noise pollution.

    "We talk about "1Malaysia" which means the same law for everyone. Why then the state government does not want to accept this guideline," said a bird nest trader from Mukah, John Low.

    He was referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's statement encouraging the people especially the Bumiputeras to venture into swiftlet farming that can boost the local economy.

    The Mukah edible-nest swiftlet merchants association protem chairman, Philip Tiong, wanted the authorities to hold a dialog with swiftlet farm owners to find a solution for the dilemma and any `one way dialog' ordering them to shift out should never be the option.


    Nonetheless, several swiftlet farm owners claimed that the setting up of the eco-park including in Mukah is the work of some to monopolise the industry.

    This is because a kilogramme of the bird's nest can fetch RM4,000 and the figure doubles after the nests are processed for export to China, Hong Kong and Korea.

    If the Mukah district can produce 100 kilogrammes of bird nest valued at RM400,000 monthly, just imagine the amount of revenue that can be generated by 40,000 swiftlet farms all over the country.

    Though the allegations of monopoly is yet to be proven, the authorities should attend immediately to the current impasse that can derail the government's plan to develop the bird nest industry.

    Meanwhile, head of the swiftlet unit of the Veterinary Services Department Dr Fadzilah A'ini Abdul Kadir noted that the department, which is the leading agency in monitoring the swiftlet industry, is keeping track on the developments in the industry.

    Since the last three years, more than 5,000 samples of the swiftlet have been tested by the department and so far they have been free from bird flu and Newcastle disease, said Dr Fadzilah.

    -- BERNAMA
    “The only security we have is our ability to adapt."

  • #2
    Re: Sarawaks Bird Nest Industry

    Bird's nest: Finding the swift way to earn megabucks

    Swiftlet breeding is a thriving business worth RM1.5 billion annually. The speed at which the industry has grown in the last few years poses a major dilemma for operators and the public due to the health risks, smell and noise. The government is now looking at giving the industry a much-needed framework to operate in a sustainable manner. CHUAH BEE KIM, ZAINUDDIN MUHAMMAD, M. HAMZAH JAMALUDIN, PATRICK SENNYAH and ROY GOH report.

    FROM caves at the Niah National Park and Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, swiftlet breeders have now taken their business into cities and towns nationwide.

    Malaysia now has about 50,000 swiftlet premises producing more than 12 tonnes of bird's nest monthly. The current price of bird's nest is between RM3,000 and RM4,000 per kg, depending on the grade.

    Operators are keeping their fingers crossed for government assistance to take the business to a higher level.

    Those in Johor, for example, want the government's nod for export licences.

    If this happens, they are geared up to put the country on the world map as the biggest exporter of bird's nest.

    Those in Negri Sembilan want help in getting halal and Sirim certification as well as the internationally-recognised Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point certification for their products.

    They are also hoping to get the government's assistance to set up a research and development facility to enhance the quality and variety of the products.

    Datuk Saipolbahari Suib, adviser to Persatuan Pengusaha Industri Sarang Burung Kulai, is confident the industry can achieve the dream if they are given the opportunity to export their harvest.

    "Currently, we are sending the bird's nests to Indonesia for processing as we do not have the plants here. If the government can set up processing plants in every district, we will be able to do everything locally and export the products."

    Saipolbahari, who is also chairman of JB Bird Nest Resources Sdn Bhd, hopes the government will give a grant of RM400,000 for the setting up of processing centres in every district.

    "I am optimistic that we can make it big in the global market as the quality of our nests is one of the best in the market."

    In Johor alone, there are about 5,000 bird's nest traders.

    Negri Sembilan Association of Bird's Nest Traders president Datuk Lee Yuen Fong says there are about 40,000 breeders nationwide, of which 95 per cent are operating without licences.
    "The reason for this is that there is still plenty of red tape and we hope this problem will be ironed out soon."

    He says because it is a multimillion-ringgit industry, there are many unscrupulous parties trying to cash in on it.

    "Another issue plaguing the industry is smuggling."

    Complaints against the swiftlet industry are numerous -- noise pollution is a common gripe of anyone living next to a "swiftlet hotel".

    To lure the birds, which breed in colonies, recorded sounds of chirping females are played constantly on speakers.

    Saipolbahari says responsible breeders follow the guidelines set by the
    Veterinary Services Department, where only a sound level of 40 decibels is permitted.

    "Errant traders who do not follow this guideline should have their licences revoked."

    Another concern is bird flu. However, Saipolbahari says swiftlets are the cleanest birds around.

    "Moreover, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species had carried out research on swiftlets in 2005 and the birds are not the species that cause bird flu."

    Saipolbahari says swiftlet breeding is a godsend to many, especially during the economic downturn, as buildings which have been abandoned or cannot be rented out are revived when swiftlet breeders come in.
    “The only security we have is our ability to adapt."