El Nino, haze hit bird’s nest supply

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KUCHING: While the Chinese community ponders over who to vote for in the state elections, some are distracted by a “baffling exodus” taking place in Miri and Bintulu.

The producers of one of Sarawak’s most prized exports – bird’s nest – are blaming it on El Nino and the haze.

For the past few months, they said, the number of swift birds, whose saliva-spun nests are a great delicacy among the Chinese, have dropped noticeably in their usual nesting grounds.

“Many birds have flown away and not returned for a few months now. Maybe it is hard for them to find food. Production of bird’s nests has dropped by about 30% because of El Nino,” said Loh Siaw Kuei, president of the Sarawak Bird’s Nest Merchants Association.

Demand is back on the rise since 2014 after China lifted a 2011 ban due to nitrate levels in the delicacy.

The price for processed bird’s nest plunged from RM7,000 to RM1,500 a kilogramme during the freeze, but has now exceeded RM8,000 and demand is growing, said Loh, also vice-president of the Federation of Malaysia Bird’s Nest Industry Merchants Associations Malaysia.

Loh said the strong recovery in prices and demand was a windfall for local industry players because they had difficulty in servicing bank loans during the ban.

“Although the price is higher, the demand from China is still very good. Sarawak bird’s nests are bigger and considered to be of high quality and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point)-certified. That’s why the Chinese love bird’s nests from here,” he said.

Importers from China are also sourcing from Malaysia because of a drop in production in Indonesia, the world’s largest supplier, due to the haze.

According to Loh, Malaysia exported 11 tonnes to China last year.

There are 19 processing plants in the country approved to export cleaned bird’s nests to China with two in Kuching and one in Mukah, in the central region.

BERNAMA