Friday, December 16, 2011

Dilemma in Building a Swiftlet House

Trading bird nest is a lucrative business. What about if you can own the source of bird nest namely owning a swiftlet house?

To own a swiftlet house, you can rent an unoccupied house, unoccupied shop lot or build one in the middle of the palm oil plantation for instance. Renting a space may be a cheaper option whereas building a swiftlet house say a double storey structure may cost you RM200,000.

The success rate is 3% - 20% which is rather low. Therefore whether or not to go ahead with building a swiftlet house is a major decision.

Some question that just for birds to stay, why you need to build such an expensive structure, a structure that if you put in interior finishes is the same as that for human habitation. The result of this doubt is that now some farmers use containers instead of the concrete structure. A container may cost you RM8000. You need to stack up the containers on top of a concrete supporting structure and to insulate the wall and ceiling of a container to achieve stable internal temperature.

It is known that a pair of swiftlets lay 2 eggs each time, 3 times per year. So ideally in one year the growth of population of swiftlets is 8 out of a pair. In some areas in Malaysia, the number of the swiftlet houses double semi-annually. How to lure enough number of swiftlets to stay in the new houses in order to break even your investmetn is a big question mark.

Think twice before you invest and make sure that you can have enough swiftlets to stay in your swiftlet house.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bird Nest on the Shelves Before Chinese New Year

The Health Minister of Malaysia has met with his counterpart in China to discuss the teething issue of nitrite in bird nest. Both sides agreed that there is nitrite content in the natural bird nest cup. A specialist team will be established to look into this matter and set up standards.

The Health Minister hoped that the specialist team can complete its standardization and certification in December this year. Malaysia side has appointed the Director General of Food Safety and Quality Department to stay back to resolve this issue.

The China Health Minister believed that Malaysia businessmen are honest and did not add in nitrite in the bird nest supplie by them.

It seems that finally we should be able to see the light in the tunnel after a few months of standstill in the sales of bird nest.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Registration of Bird Nest Farmers

Recently, the Veterinary Department of Johor, Malaysia stated that all the bird nest farmers must register with its Department.

To date, the bird nest farmers are reluctant to register, worrying that by doing so will create more problem for them.

According to the Veterinary Department of Johor, this step is for its department to control the quality of bird nest. For instance, if the swiftlets at certain area contract certain disease, it can effectively control the situation. This will assist the industry as a whole.

Bird nest farming being the flagship agricultural industry in the Tenth Malaysian Plan, is a very profitable industry. Indonesia has started this industry 30 years ago and dominates the world market with a market share of 80%. Malaysia wishes to occupy 30% in the future. To safeguard the industry, the registration with the Veterinary Department is necessary.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cave Bird Nest Centers in Southeast Asia

Bird nests are only available in Hainan Island, Vietnam, Thailand, Myannmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines where swiftlets are thriving.

In Hainan Island, due to uncontrolled harvesting of bird nests, the swiftlets are almost extinguished. Most of the caves are now under very stringent control by the state.

Cave bird nest are exported through some coastal towns in Southeast Asia. Most of them are quite interesting and untouched by the international tourists.

Chumphon of Southern Thailand is one good example. Some exclusive resorts there do not even have brochures in English or some other international languages. You may have to converse in Thai to register for a room. A nearby town called Hat Sai Ri has pristine beaches visited by the locals in the weekend. When the weather is clear, you may see some houses built on top of the hills on the offshore islands. These houses belong to the cave bird nest harvestors/farmers. Most of the islands are under the state concessions for bird nest harvesting.

In Hat Sai Ri, there is a popular shrine named after a Prince Admiral. It is situated by the seaside. The Thai Navy entrusted an old ship to the shrine. It is berthed in the sea just opposite the road of the shrine. The shrine is frequented by plenty of local visitors. The worshippers burn fire crackers intermittently the whole day long.

You may visit my website for more information on other bird nest towns.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Revisit Nitrite Issue

Recently, the issue of nitrite in bird nest has been widely dicussed by the bird nest industrialists in Malaysia. This issue has been dangling for about two months.

Since the burst of nitrite issue, the Malaysian bird nest industry has suffered great loss. In China, the retailers have taken down the product from the shelves. The relevant departments stop China people from consuming bird nest from Malaysia. The sales dropped by at least 80% since. As the export to China, the biggest consumer of bird nest has been stagnant, the bird nests in Malaysia has been turned to be stock with no cashflow.

The bird nest associations nationwide have urged the Ministry of Health to help resolve this issue. After all, bird nest industry has been marked as a flagship agricultural activity in the 10th Malaysia Plan. Its intention is to acquire 30% of the world wide bird nest market in the next 5 years. Currently, Malaysia has 13% of the bird nest market. If the nitrite issue were not resolved, the achivement of the market target will definitely be delayed.

The checking of nitrite content will be done at 3 stages i.e. (i) raw materials (ii) after cleaning and (ii) finished products like canned bird nest soup. Therefore, standards need to be set for each category.

Hopefully, when the Prime Minister and his team visit China in the beginning of November, he can show our standard and explain the rationale behind it to his China counterparts.

We do not expect the issue can be resolved overnight. At least efforts should be put in and resolve it the soonest possible.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nitrite Issue - When will it be resolved?

There has been months since the nitrite issue arised in the bird nest industry.

The issue begun when there were plenty of complaints on the consumption of blood bird nest which gave rise to health problem and even miscarriage for the pregnant women.

The issue has been complicated when fake government officers were invited to explain the nitrite problem in Hangzhou. This was discovered by the China journalists.

Worse still, the CCTV broadcasted a documentary on blood bird nests nation wide. As a result, the China consumers are scared to purchase bird nest.

The China government has strengthened its rules on sales of bird nest. Only bird nest with proper documentation and nitrite content zero ppm are allowed to be sold. The sales of bird nest has dropped 70% to 80% since.

According the news, the Malaysian Health Ministry will resolve the nitrite issue with the China government. Most likely the Malaysian side will propose a nitrite content figure for the China government to consider and further negotiation will carry on from there.

Some laboratories in Malaysia can make the nitrite content zero, of course at an additional cost. This will increase the selling price of the bird nest.

To regain the consumer confidence will takes months even years in China.
Hopefully, the nitrite issue could be resolved as soon as possible.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Current Bird Nest Market in China

A few days ago, I made a trip to Hangzhou and Shanghai. Before the trip, I thought the weather would turn cold after the mid-autumn festival. To my surprise, it was not true. The temperature was about 25 to 30 degree Celsius. The relative humidity was high. It was like the weather in Malaysia. I felt quite comfortable over that few days.

I was told that the bird nest market suffered an avalanche in sales after the broadcasting of blood bird nest by CCTV and the related news by most media. The public was so shocked at the way of the manufacture of blood bird nest that they do not wish to buy the bird nest any more. The sales dropped by at least 70%. Most of the shops cleared the bird nest from the shelves. Some with stock dropped the bird nest selling prices in order to clear the stock.

This is proven when I strolled down the Hefang Street and visited the Wushan Bird and Flower City. Most of the shops denied that they sold bird nests. Most of the bird nest marketers expected the sales would only recover after one year from now.

This is really a winter for the bird nest market, which came earlier than the natural winter and may last longer.

The genuine bird nest industrialists were victimized by the recent happenings.

Hopefully, the officers from both the Malaysian and China Government would meet to come to a compromise on the standard content of nitrate as soon as possible. Only when this happens, the public confidence would resume.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Nitrate Level in Malaysian Bird Nest

About one month ago, spot check on bird nests at stores in Zhejiang Province revealed that average content of 4,400 mg of sodium nitrate per kilogram as opposed to allowed cap of 70 mg per kilogram.

Following this event, there is rumours saying that Malaysian bird's nests would be banned in China. This created a huge chaos among the bird nest industrialists in Malaysia.

On 9 August 2011, the Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister, Chua Tee Yong announced that the China Government did not impose any ban on the import of bird nests from Malaysia, to the relief of the bird nest industrialists.

The standard level of nitrate in China is zero ppm whereas the accepted level of nitrate in Malaysia is 30 ppm based on MS Standard 2334:2010 Edible Bird Nest (EBN)- Specification.

Chua said that his Ministry will meet with trade councellor to the China Embassy in Malaysia to dicuss the issue in order to resolve it.

Malaysis is one of the two countries (the other one is Singapore) allowed to export bird nest to China. If any China shops say that their bird nests are from other countries than Malaysia and Singapore, it may mean that it is not true or the traders from other countries use Malaysia as illegal channel to export their products to China.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why swiftlets flying high in the sky?

It is a common scene that swiftlets flying round and round above the canopy of the trees. Do they flying for fun?

Study showed that swiftlets are foraging for food during flying high in the sky. One would wonder if there is anything high up in the sky.

Actually, small insects are floated up by hot air in the bushes or jungle during day time. They are plenty in the sky. Unfortunately, we cannot see them by our naked eyes.

Swiftlets pick up these insects while flying. Some make the insects into a small ball to feed the infants. See how wonderful the nature is!

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gomantong Caves, Sabah

Bird nest can be grossly divided into house bird nest and cave bird nest. In East Malaysia, cave bird nests which are harvested from the caves are commonplace. Bird nests have been harvested from the caves for more than 100 years. One of the famous sites is Gomantong Caves.

Gomantong Caves is situated at the south of Sandakan Town of Sabah. Due to spectacular view of the caves and the swiftlets, it has been a tourist attraction in Sandakan beside Proboscis monkey.

Gomantong Caves consist of three cave chambers namely Simud Putih, Simud Hitam and Bobong Bulud. All the three main caves are interconnected. White bird nest can be found in Simud Putih whereas black bird nest in Simud Hitam.

When you enters the caves, you will find cathedral like chambers. Hundreds of thousands of swiftlets occupy the caves with a few feet of guano on the ground.

The swiftlets share the caves with the bats. In the evening, you can see the bats move out of the caves and a short while later the swiftles move in from foraging in the nearby forest. Occasionally, you may see bat hawk appear in the sky hunting for its dinner.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bird Nest Benefits

Bird nest soup is a famous Chinese cuisine. Its main ingredient namely bird nest contains some very useful glycoprotein and amino acids.

According to traditional Chinese medicine documentation, bird nest has the following benefits:-
1. Strengthens the lung function;
2. Strengthens the abdomen function;
3. Strengthens the body's self-regulating actions and immunities against diseases;
4. Enhances production of cells as it contain epidermic growth factor;
5. Improves the skin complexion
6. Enhances the brain ability of baby;
7. Smoothens the side effects of those who go through chemotherapy;
8. Aids in the treatment of cancer patients;
9. Assists in prevention of cancer through antioxidants;
10. Improves heart functions.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011




做血燕的燕子一定是洞燕.它有两个可能: (一)燕子吃了红海藻,因此吐出淡红色的血燕. (二)燕窝接触洞壁,里面的铁质渗入燕窝造成金黄色的血燕.


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Is there any blood bird nest?

The Chinese believes that blood bird nest or red bird nest is the best among the bird nests. One can imagine its value by knowing the fact that bird nest is one of the most expensive natural animal products. It can cost a minimum Ringgit Malaysia (RM13-00)per gram for white bird nest.

Is there any blood bird nest? Yes, there is but it is very rare. Blood bird nest is made by the same swiftlets as the white edible bird nest namely Aerodramus Faciphagus. These swiflets must be cave swiftlets.

There are grossly two possibilities i.e. (i) the swiftlet feeds on red algae and the bird nest produced is greyish pink and (ii) the bird nest is in contact with the wall of the cliff or overhangs where the ferous materials seep into the bird nest and make it golden red in color.

The saying that the swiftlet mixes its blood with saliva while making blood bird nest is simply a fallacy. It is impossible as the blood when cooled is black in color and not red.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Use of Kojic Acid in Cosmetic

Kojic acid is now one of the important ingredients in lightening cosmetic especially in asian countries.

Kojic acid was discovered in 1989. It was derived from a Japanese fungus and is a by-product in the fermentation of malting rice for use in manufacturing of sake, a Japanese rice wine.

It is a new remedy for treatment of pigment problems like hyperpigmentation, melasma, chlosma, freckles and age spots. To make it work, it must be absorbed into the skin. Hence, it must be left for a few minutes before completely washing off for absorption to occur.

It functions as a lightening agent as it inhibits melanin production. The production of melanin involves an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine is assisted by an enzime called tyrosinase to produce skin color pigment. Kojic acid counters the antioxidant properties of tyrosinase and thus prevents it from acting on tyrosine and producing melanin.

Kojic acid is used as an alternative to hydroquinone and glycolic acid as it is less harmful. However, it still can lead to mild to severe irritation on some skin types. It may make the area on which it is applied photosensitive compared to the rest of the body.

Living Proof Halal Cosmetic does not use kojic acid as its ingredient.

This article is written by Chai Yong of