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Step up for China-M'sia bird's nest trade

Publication Date : 17-01-2014

 

As Indonesia looms over Malaysia’s export monopoly to China, suppliers may want to bolster their positions while they still can.

The bird’s nests ban lift has been greeted with much enthusiasm by both Malaysian and Chinese industry players.

Effective December 25 last year, the ban on the bird’s nest imports was lifted, ending a two-year freeze.

The decision was announced in a statement issued by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Guangdong Swiftlet Nest Industry Association executive chairman Xu Bing said the much-awaited good news is the first step towards the healthy development of the bird’s nest industry.

The ban was put in place in late 2011 when cleaned bird’s nests from Malaysia were found to contain an excessive level of nitrite.

An alarming scandal blew up in Zhejiang in August 2011 when its industry and commerce bureau discovered that the average level of nitrate in 537 “blood nest” samples was 4,400mg/kg, far exceeding the national cap of 70mg/kg.

Most of the bird’s nests were said to originate from Malaysia. The news was a serious blow to the swiftlet industry in Malaysia, which has seen a boom in commercial swiftlet farming in recent years.

Legitimate exporters cried foul over the claim, blaming the tainted bird’s nests on dishonest businessmen, but the damage had been done.

While the ban has also taken a toll on the industry in Guangzhou, where many bird’s nests wholesalers are based, Xu regarded the ban as a blessing in disguise.

“Personally, I feel the ban has flushed out unscrupulous vendors and forced all to ponder on the development of the industry,” he said.

According to the new approval, the bird’s nests must now be packaged and labelled with details including the names and registration numbers of the swiftlet house and the processing company.

As such, consumers can check the authenticity of the products, and problems can be traced back to the responsible party.

“Customers can expect good value for money for bird’s nests because the quality of the product is safeguarded under new regulations,” Xu said.

In early December, representatives from the Malaysian and Chinese bird’s nests industries met in Kuala Lumpur.

Both sides have agreed to be law-abiding and responsible while working towards achieving mutual benefit.

Although Malaysia is currently the only country with the approval to export bird’s nests to China, Xu said Indonesia might soon be given the approval as well.

Therefore, he advised Malaysian merchants to grab the opportunity now to establish business ties with Chinese dealers.

During the two-year hiatus, Malaysia was actively engaged in talks with Chinese authorities, including the AQSIQ and Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission, to revive imports.

In September 2012, Malaysia and China signed a protocol on bird’s nests entry into China, which touched on the aspects of examination, quarantine and hygiene.

Fifteen Malaysian companies submitted their applications to export their bird’s nests to China in March last year. They were subjected to evaluation by Chinese authorities.

Nine gained the conditional pass in June but only eight of them were given the final approval – Sunshine Region Sdn Bhd, PT Swiftlet Marketing Sdn Bhd, Tian Ma Bird Nest Sdn Bhd, Kuan Wellness Sdn Bhd, Fucifagus Agritech Sdn Bhd, Yan Ming Resources Sdn Bhd, Golden Mah Bird’s Nest Sdn Bhd and Yen Pao Lai (M) Sdn Bhd.

Malaysian Bird’s Nest Importers and Exporters Association chairman Puah Boon Choon said the industry suffered huge losses following the ban since 80% of the bird’s nests from Malaysia were exported to China.

To step up their reputation as responsible suppliers, Puah said the Malaysian companies have invested in better equipment and employee training, among others.

“The traceability of the bird’s nests produced in Malaysia, coupled with inspections by the veterinary services department and health department, can help win back customers who have shied away from the delicacy,” he said.

While Guangdong-based Nan­fang Daily reported that Chinese merchants had hoped to bring in the first batch of bird’s nests to China before the Chinese New Year, Puah said the products would most probably reach China in March.

“Our Chinese counterparts have begun to contact the eight companies for the necessary documents for import permit applications,” he said.

Puah said the eight Malaysian companies would face a sudden increase in orders but they would supply the bird’s nests to China according to their capability.

“There are 13 more companies applying for the export permit,” he said.

 

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