Rich pickings from swiftlet rearing

By : Alina Simon
Ng Yit Foong with some of the products made from bird’s nest made available by
Nespure Birdsnest Sdn Bhd’s latest venture, a shop-cum-cafe started recently at
KB Mall.
Nurul Asnur Shadikin Yusof, 20 ,
showing some unprocessed bird’s nest
from a cave (left) and from the farm.KOTA BARU: It may be a dirty business with risks attached, but swiftlet rearing is
bringing in clean profits for Ng Yit Foong of Pasir Mas.
With prices ranging between RM4,000 and RM6,000 per kilogramme for
unprocessed nests and RM5,000 and RM7,000 processed, it’s no surprise that
the 25-year-old is smiling.
“It is a profitable affair,” said the bachelor whose family-owned Nespure Birdsnest
Sdn Bhd has expanded from one to three farms over the past 10 years.
The company’s latest venture is a shop-cum-cafe started recently at KB Mall that
sells dry and cooked bird’s nests.
The company has also boosted production by buying nests from nearby farms
under a joint-venture agreement with several partners.
According to Ng, an accountancy graduate, the company produces around 60kg
of bird’s nest annually with prices fluctuating depending on demand.
While the Ng family is enjoying success today, it took much hard work and
tenacity to get to where it is now.
Yit Foong’s father, Ching Phock, 54, the company managing director, initially ran
a tobacco drying mill in Tumpat but switched to swiftlet rearing in 1997.
It was the time when the industry was still in its infancy but he persevered.
“My father went to Indonesia which has a thriving industry to learn trade secrets.
“It took a lot of money to persuade them to share their know-how.
“Even now there is a lot of secrecy in the trade and not many operators will allow
people into their farms.”
Yit Foong said his father and his partners later bought a four-storey building and
converted it into a farm.
But still, it took time to attract the birds.
“It took a lot of effort to create a comfortable environment for the birds to nest,”
said Yit Foong, who added that the nests were made of saliva deposits from male
swiftlets and soft bird down.
“A well-maintained farm will produce quality products and that is why we spend
about RM1,000 monthly on each farm to keep it clean and the humidifiers in top
condition.He said this was to recreate a cave-like environment for the swiftlets.
“Our workers wet the nests and, using tweezers, pick away the down.
“It is labour intensive and we spend around RM1,000 to produce a kilogramme.”
The company sells unprocessed nests to buyers from Indonesia and China who
process them before selling themto Hong Kong buyers who pay top dollars.
“They are able to do so as their labour cost is low compared with ours.
“However, we are planning to move towards processing and selling our own
range of bird’s nest products through our outlet.”
Yit Foong, the second of three siblings, is the only one involved in the operation.
His older sister, who used to help run the business, has since migrated to
Australia while his 19-year-old brother is still studying.
He said the industry faced several challenges, including thieves breaking into
farms at night to steal nests.
“We had to install a security system three years ago after thieves hit our place.
“The theft posed a big threat as the thieves would just throw out the hatchlings
which can affect the bird population,” he said.
Although there are around 1,000 operators in Kelantan, the company is among
the few licensed to carry out its business.