S’wak bird’s nest traders propose law to clearly define protection status of swiftlet species


The committee members pose for a group photo after the meeting. Seated from left are Lee, Kueh, Loh, Wong and Dato Wong.

SIBU (May 25): Gazetting the law to clearly define the protection status of swiftlet species and setting up the Bird’s Nest Board are among some of the proposals that could help resolve the problems encountered by bird’s nests traders.

In stating this, Sarawak Bird’s Nest Traders Association (SBNTA) president Loh Siaw Kuei said other proposals include better regulation of the industry for increased competitiveness, monitoring and protection on the governance for both cave and domestic bird’s nest production.

“With better monitoring, it can help reduce the difficulties and obstacles in the production and marketing of bird’s nests,” he said in a statement issued after their meeting.

The meeting was called following the seizure of RM2.5 million worth of bird’s nest in Sibu during a joint operation involving Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Sibu Marine Police Zone 5 on May 3.

Among those attending the meeting were SBNTA deputy president Kueh Nai Khiang, secretary Wong Toh Hiing, assistant secretary Lee Kia Boon and publicity officer Dato Wong Joo Hua.

Loh said this was necessary in order to compete effectively with neighbouring countries especially Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in the production and export of bird’s nests.

He said it was also in the interest of the state government to support the production and export of bird’s nests so that it can be managed as a natural resource and therefore protect the revenue generated from this trade.

Touching on swallow farming, Loh said it was actually a conservation effort rather than exploitation of the swallow species as all the breeders would ensure that the welfare of the swallows on the farms is protected.

He said the breeders were willing to comply with the rules and regulations, including the laws that govern swiftlet breeding.

“However, the law needs to be reviewed for updates to match the latest swiftlet ecology and the bird’s nest market conditions. Laws and practices can take preferences from Peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia.”

Loh recommended that the state government strongly recognise the production, processing and export of bird’s nest as an industry that provides wide employment opportunities for the local community like it does in the cultivation of pepper, cocoa, rubber and oil palm.

“Therefore, it is important to establish the Bird’s Nest Board to supervise, regulate, coordinate, enhance and promote the bird’s nest industry in Sarawak.”

He said the bird’s nest industry board should be independent from the SFC and should improve the efficiency of licence application, processing, approval, monitoring and enforcement.

“There should also be publication of the bird’s nest industry handbook to set the rules, obligations and procedures for stakeholders to facilitate compliance and to avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings in promoting regulatory compliance.”

Additionally, he said the board shall protect and champion the interests of Sarawak and its stakeholders as a whole by providing guidance, dissemination of information and education, research and publication.

In order to better protect the interests of the people of Sarawak, he suggested that all foreigners without valid business registration, licence and/or personal legal status should be prohibited from owning, associating, operating, selling, importing, exporting Sarawak bird’s nests in any form, whether processed or unprocessed.

Law noted that it was very encouraging to realise that currently, the swiftlet farming industry involved all ethnic groups, with the appearance of small swiftlet houses in towns, villages and longhouses throughout Sarawak.

“The business is no longer dominated by businessmen with large financial capital and if properly developed, this valuable natural commodity can benefit the people of Sarawak.”