Malaysian bird's nest prices rebound on Indonesian production fall

KUCHING - Bird's nest prices in Sarawak have seen a strong recovery as falling production in Indonesia caused by the recent haze has prompted its suppliers to source the delicacy from the state.

Unprocessed swiftlet nests at farm level currently fetch a market price of around RM2,500 (S$813) per kg, rebounding from the bottom of RM1,300 per kg about two years ago. The prices of processed nests have recovered to between RM4,000 and RM5,000 per kg depending on grades, according to an established swiftlet farm owner in Mukah Division.

He said the price of the raw nests had gone up by 15 per cent in the past two months.

Sarawak Bird's Nest Suppliers Association secretary Colin Wong Chung Onn attributed the surge to buying from Indonesian suppliers as production in Indonesia had dropped because of the adverse impact of the haze there.

"Indonesian suppliers are sourcing from local middlemen to make up for the shortfall as they have export commitments to fulfil.The buying has pushed up bird's nest prices in Sarawak," he told StarBiz.

West Kalimantan bordering Sarawak and Sumatra is reported to be main producers of swiftlet nests in Indonesia. According to an Indonesian news portal, the haze pollution had hit the country's swiftlet production as the birds had difficulties in finding food in the haze.

Besides lower production, the quality and shape of nests are smaller and some birds had even migrated, it added.

Wong said domestic bird's nest prices had firmed up following the resumption in the export of processed clean nests to China last year. China, which banned the import of Malaysia's edible nests in 2011 following the detection of nitrate in the delicacy, was reported to have imported some RM1bil worth of bird's nest products from Malaysia annually before the ban.

Wong said the number of Malaysian processing plants permitted to export cleaned bird's nests to China had now increased to 16,including two from Sarawak. These plants have been accredited by the Accreditation Admnistration of the People's Republic of China.

Malaysia, according to Federation of Malaysia Bird's Nest Industry Merchant Associations president Datuk Lee Kong Heng, would be able to export up to 10 tonnes a year of bird's nests to China once the number of accredited processing plants nationwide reaches 40.

"The increase in domestic bird's nest prices has been gradual. There is some room for further price uptrend in view of the coming Lunar New Year (when demand normally goes up).

However, prices might soften after the festive celebrations," said Wong, adding that prices varied due to the different grading standards.

At the peak price levels before China imposed the import ban on Malaysia, domestic bird's nest soared to around RM4,500 per kg (raw nest) and over RM7,000 per kg (processed nest).

Wong said based on Department of Veterinary Services' figures, there were 1,036 registered bird houses in Sarawak as of September this year.

There are 12 collection centres (excluding two centres for cave nests), 52 processing plants, 23 traders and six exporters.

It is understood that a big number of bird houses, many of which were set up during the good times years ago, have not been registered with the authorities.

The Sarawak State Economic Development Corp, which was tasked by the government to spearhead the orderly development of the swiftlet industry, is developing swiftlet eco parks in central Sarawak.

The first such park,which comprises 10 units of double-storey buildings in Daro, Mukah Division is expected to be in full operation soon.

SEDC plans to build another 28 double-storey buildings in a proposed second swiftlet eco park in Mukah Division via a joint venture with a private company.

Wong said fewer new players were venturing into swiftlet breeding due to slower returns on investment at current price levels.