By Zoe Phoon
Incredible, but true! An astounding RM13 billion worth of edible bird?s nests were produced around the world last year alone, with a significant portion coming from swiftlet houses in Malaysia and Indonesia.
And there's no letting up.So much so, in fact, that with demand from China,Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan on the rise, there's now a "housing shortage" for these birds!
Enter the Perak Swiftlet Eco Park @ Manjung ? the world's first legal, structured park to accommodate swiftlets.
Here, "housing units" of detached, semi-detached and terrace types permit edible bird's nests to be be cultivated in an organised manner, with the park also serving as an eco-tourism centre.
The first phase of the project being jointly developed by Bio Research Centre (M) Sdn Bhd (BRC) and the Perak State Development Corp, which provided the land, is expected to be ready for the swiftlets to occupy come June 2008.
BRC co-founder and executive chairman Datuk Dr Abdullah Fadzil Che Wan said the the park, which has garnered federal government support, will adhere to Good Animal Husbandry Practices to protect the welfare and behavioural aspects of the ranched swiftlets and ensure that they will not become a public nuisance or health hazard.
The three types of swiftlet houses available for sale with individual titles, round-theclock security and bio-environment management system are all specially designed, with BRC offering professional management to guarantee efficient commercial harvesting of the bird's nests.
The three-storey terrace units with dimensions of 25ft by 75ft will have 4,600sq ft of built-up space. Priced at RM398,800, they are suitable for those with little or no experience in swiftlet farming and intend only to put out minimum capital outlay.
End-financing of up to 85 per cent is being offered by Bank Pertanian Malaysia, which has termed bird?s nest cultivation an agro-based industry.
All the 13 units in the first phase, and over 50 per cent of the second phase, with 13 units as well, were sold at a soft launch recently, with the official launch slated for the end of this month.
?As long as the birds are well taken care of, they?ll earn millions of ringgit for the investor,? said Dr Abdullah.
Those already getting returns from their swiftlet farms but seek properly managed premises can opt for one of the 18 units of 60ft by 105ft three-storey semidetached houses with a typical built-up area of 8,500sq ft. These are priced from RM678,000.
For an even larger house, there?s the choice of a 75ft by 150ft three-storey detached unit with a built-up size of 13,600sq ft. Seven units are for sale, at RM988,000 each.
A medical doctor by training, Dr Abdullah was a former deputy minister in the Foreign Affairs and Defence ministries. He is also the executive chairman of Bio Perak (M) Sdn Bhd, which promotes the biotechnology industry in the state on behalf of the Perak government as well as an established developer and major shareholder of Perak Integrated Network Services Sdn Bhd, which builds telecommunication towers in the state.
His partner and BRC managing director, Loke Yeu Loong, has 22 years of property development under his belt.
The duo initiated the Perak Swiftlet Eco Park @ Manjung project to bring an end to unregulated swiftlet farming in the state, particularly in the Manjung district, and to create a niche investment opportunity.
They target to launch their second swiftlet housing scheme in Taiping by the end of this year.
BRC has also identified sites in Selangor, Pahang, Terengganu and Johor that will be suitable for legalised swiftlet farming and eventually, the firm aims to venture into other states, and even abroad to Vietnam and Thailand.
On why Manjung was selected for the first site, Loke said "abundant food supply is vital for swiftlet farming, and the project in the town of Sitiawan is one of the best swiftlet farming areas" in the country.
He added that other areas considered excellent for commercial farming of bird?s nests are Parit Buntar and Taiping, also in Perak; Kota Baru in Kelantan; Endau and Kota Tinggi in Johor; and Kuantan and Kuala Rompin in Pahang.
"The swiftlet farm site must be located in the direct flyingpath of swiftlets, amidst forest reserves, mangrove swamps, plantations, rivers and the sea," he said.
"This creates the perfect environment for the birds... and for investors to make money."