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Friday, April 17, 2009

Tourists caught unaware about new ruling on birds' nest

Tourists caught unaware about new ruling on birds' nest
Kong See Hoh

PENANG (April 15, 2009) : A new ruling prohibiting the import and export of bird's nest without a permit caught tourists unaware, resulting in them losing hundreds of thousands of ringgit as they have to surrender the delicacy on leaving the country.

Under the rule, it is an offence to bring into or take out of the country even a single cup of bird's nest unless a permit is obtained from the Wildlife and National Park Department.

Malaysia Bird’s Nest Merchants Association president Datuk Beh Heng Seong told Oriental Daily News that cases of ignorant tourists having to forfeit bird's nest at the immigration chechpoints are happening.

He estimated that hundreds of kilos of bird's nest worth hundreds of thousands of ringgit have been confiscated at the country's exit points.

Beh said he has been receiving complaints from members of the association on tourists having to surrender such prized gift item because they are not aware of the ban.

He believed the ruling would not only affect the bird's nest industry but also leave a negative impression of Malaysia on the tourists.

He said he understands the ruling is aimed at putting a stop to the smuggling of bird's nest out of the country, but deems it ridiculous for the authorities concerned to want tourists taking home some bird's nest to go all the way to the Wildlife and National Park Department to get a permit.

"Worse still, it takes four days to get obtain a permit. How do you expect a tourist to wait four days for a permit?"

According to the report, an one-off permit costs RM200 and bird's nest is subject to an export duty of RM100 per kg.

Beh lamented the lack of Wildlife and National Park Department counters at exit points and tourists caught unaware of the new ruling could only forfeit their bird's nest.

He said the government, which has always encouraged Malaysians to buy local products, should provide all the convenience and necessary assistance to foreigner visitors wanting to buy bird's nest, least to discourage them.

He said the cultivation of bird's nest is lucrative industry, bringing in about RM1 billion a year in foreign exchange.

He urged the new cabinet to take a serious view of the problem.

A bird's nest cultivator who did not want to be identified wondered why the authorities are so strict with tourists who just want to take home some bird's nest for own their consumption or as gifts for friends and relatives.

He said if the government allows a person to take out of the country up to 200 sticks of cigarettes and up to one litre of liquor at a time, there is no reason why a similar rule cannot be applied to bird's nest.

He suggested the authorities allow each tourist to carry up to a kilogramme of bird's nest without permit.

Meanwhile, an officer of the department in Penang dismissed allegations that it takes four days to obtain a permit.

He said the most it takes is half a day.

"If you come at 8am you might even get it done by 8.30am," he said.

He said the ruling is to curb smuggling of bird's nest which fetches as much as RM3,000 a kg.

Edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) or black-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus maximus) are protected species under Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 and anyone caught importing or exporting them without a permit can be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed up to three years or both.


Birds' nest industry reaping profits in Malaysia

Birds' nest industry reaping profits in Malaysia
By George Francis
MIRI - The edible birds' nests industry is growing in Malaysia and is currently the third largest producers in the world, after Indonesia and Thailand, said Malaysian director general of veterinary services department, Datuk Dr Abd Aziz Jamaluddin.
He said the export value last year from Peninsula Malaysia alone was over RM1 billion excluding from Sabah and Sarawak, which the latter contributed at more than one RM100 million. The products are exported to Hong Kong, China, Japan and Korea, he said, adding, there were plans to penetrate the Middle East and European markets.
"We want to go direct to China, a major consuming country rather than via Hong Kong; a question of bilateral trade ties here is yet to be overcomed," he told reporters after officiating at the 'Veterinary-Consumer Month' state level held here.
He said the veterinary services department plays a leading role in the swiftlet farming industry, and hence a national conference on the industry had been proposed to be held this year.
"It is a continuously lucrative industry with high prices at international markets so we want to advance the methodology of swiftlet farming and to mechanise the processing sector in the country," he said.
As the industry continues to expand and grow, more and more supplies of edible birds' nests sourced from purpose-built farms that are constructed specially to house edible nests swiflets find their way into the supply chain.
The industry needs restructuring, he said, to benefit more new players and villagers if they have the land in semi-urban or rural areas as of now it is mushrooming in the urban areas. The feeding habitat always develop more or less around urban areas' built-in-houses now instead of natural rural habitat. He said the industry has long illustrious history for the last 100 years in operation and mainly sourced from indigenous suppliers who collect the nests from caves, which are the natural habitat of edible nests swiflets.