Business Times On-Line says:
THE East Coast Economic Region (ECER) states are ramping up swiftlet farming, with Kelantan emerging as the country's second largest swiftlet farmer after Perak.
Swiftlet farms produce highly-prized and much coveted birds' nests, where male swiftlets deposit salivary strands to build nests.
A kilogramme of unprocessed white edible birds' nests was priced between RM4,500 and RM6,000 in 2006, while its processed version fetched retail prices of RM15,000 to RM25,000 in Hong Kong and China.
The total consumption value of edible birds' nests throughout the world in 2006 was estimated to be in between RM8 billion and RM12 billion.
Hong Kong, at a 50 per cent consumption rate, is the world's biggest buyer of birds' nests, while China stands at eight per cent, Taiwan four per cent and Macau three per cent, with consumption weight value of 160 tonnes for 2006.
As of June 2004, there were about 300 birds' nest locations in Kelantan, especially in Kota Baru, Tumpat and Rantau Panjang.
Other swiftlet farms within the ECER are in Pasir Mas in Kelantan; Kampong Air Papan in Mersing; Kuala Besut, Kuala Terengganu, Tok Soboh, Kampung Pinang in Terengganu; as well as Rompin and Pekan in Pahang.
Nespure Birdsnest Sdn Bhd managing director Ng Ching Phock said swiftlet farming has become a new industry to generate Kelantan's economy, apart from offering jobs to its people.
With its own outlet and swiftlet farm in Kota Baru, Nespure Birdsnest markets birds' nest products directly from its outlet and sells to third parties.
It is also the first outlet in the east coast to sell sea swiftlet's birds' nest products.
"Locally harvested birds' nests are among the world's best in quality and are in demand from the international market, either raw or processed," Ng said in a statement yesterday.
"At Nespure Birdsnest, Muslim workers are employed to collect, clean, process, and select quality bird's nests by using traditional methods."
Meanwhile, Bio Research Centre (M) Sdn Bhd (BRC), one of Perak's largest swiftlet farmers, is also exploring swiftlet farming in Mersing, Kota Baru, as well as Kuantan and Kuala Rompin in Pahang.
Its managing director Loke Yeu Loong said: "Since the production of commercially harvestable quantities of edible birds' nests started to grow in 1998, more and more SME (small and medium enterprise) businessmen, landlords and investors have began to realise the financial viability of the swiftlet farming industry in Malaysia."
In Malaysia, the industry has been growing by leaps and bounds over the last eight years.
By the end of 2006, there were nearly 36,000 swiftlet farms throughout the country, with an average annualised growth rate of 35 per cent per year in the last five years.
Malaysia is the world's third largest producer of edible birds' nests with seven per cent of gross supply value, behind Indonesia (60 per cent) and Thailand (20 per cent).
The Perak state government has offered 10 potential sites for swiftlet farming, while Johor has proposed swiftlet eco-parks in Endau and Desaru. The Negri Sembilan state government is also interested in setting up similar eco parks.
The swiftlet farming industry is governed by various guidelines drawn up by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government as well as Jabatan Perkhidmatan Haiwan.
Bank Pertanian Malaysia is offering end-financing of up to 85 per cent as birds' nest cultivation has been termed an agro-based industry.