Again the lastest news of swiflet farming in Sarawak for your perusal.
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.
LICENSING ISSUES RETARDING THE INDUSTRY
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.
THE CURRENT STATUS
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 STAND TAKEN ON THE ISSUE
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.
CLAIMS OF MONOPOLY
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.
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