Sabah's bird's nest industry wants the state government to deal directly with China importers .
Those involved in the industry want the state government to step in to protect the fledgling industry that has been caught out by the crackdown on inferior bird’s nests originating out of Peninsular Malaysia.
China halted bird’s nest imports from Malaysia in July 2011, when samples taken from blood-red bird’s nests contained nitrite levels that did not meet its health standards.
MP Tawau Chua Soon Bui is backing calls by the Sabah Swiftlets House and Bird’s Nest Industry Association to get the state government involved in the dispute as none of the contaminated bird’s nests were from Sabah.
She said the Sabah government needs to assert its autonomy on exports of such commodities.
She was speaking after Sabah Swiftlets Association Tawau chairman, Kour Nam Ngaum, called on the state government not to compromise in protecting the multi-million-ringgit industry.
“The state government should fight hard to protect this state industry. The produce of the swiftlets in our natural caves should be governed by the Sabah Wildlife Department and not by a federal agency,” she said of the ban.
“Sabah should continue to explore this free enterprise market and not surrender the rights and interests of those in the industry to the federal government.”
Sabah has about 500 natural caves of nesting swiftlets. The bird’s nest industry was first recorded in North Borneo (now Sabah) in 1914 when the then British North Borneo government established conservation practices for swiftlets as its nests are said to be top grade and in high demand.
Reminding that the bird’s nest industry in Sabah was established before independence, Chua said the federal government should not dictate and monopolise the industry in Sabah.
The MP also highlighted the export policy on bird’s nests which has indirectly usurped the powers of the Sabah Wildlife Department to regulate, ensure continuous development and growth, conservation and food safety of the industry for the export market.
The Sabah Wildlife Department has also cautioned that costs may spiral if the federal authorities impose Radio Frequency Identification for the industry in Sabah which it believes is irrelevant as a quality test or for food safety. RFID is used to trace the origin of the products and is a requirement of the Chinese government.
Noting that RFID is not a requirement by the importers from China, Chua warned the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry not to take advantage of the current situation to enrich a privileged few in view of the high cost of RFID.
She said the state government should take a pro-active approach to the issue by employing experts to conduct research and development work with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), to ensure a sustainable industry.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Noh Omar said last month that the draft protocol on conditions on bird’s nest entry into China was waiting to be signed.
China has introduced a new stringent medical and health guideline to check the import of bird’s nest from bird-flu infected countries.