Swooping in on bird’s nest demand
BEIJING EXPRESSBy CELESTE FONG
ACTING on market information, a group of wholesale merchants of bird’s nests from Malaysia has been gauging the demand for this commodity in China by taking part in the just concluded Fifth China International Small and Medium Enterprises Fair in Guangzhou.
The group set up their booths, along with other Malaysian companies involved in various trades, in the vast exhibition area of the Pazhou Complex, which is also known as the Guangdong International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“We have not directly supplied any of our bird’s nests to China before,” 52-year-old T.P. Ho, who has been in the industry for over 30 years, told The Star when met at the fair.
Ho said their major importers include Singapore and Indonesia.
“Our bird’s nests are from Sandakan, Sabah, where we have our own caves,’’ Ho said.
“We lease the caves from the Sabah state government and we can produce up to over 10 tonnes of bird’s nests a year.”
The idea of doing business in China had not crossed his mind until a Chinese importer ordered two tonnes of bird’s nests from him during the Olympics, revealed Ho.
“I feel the market in China is really vast and I am here to look for distributors,’’ said the managing director of Mr Bird Nest Trading Company.
Behind Ho’s booth was the booth of P.G. Lim’s Siang Long Bird Nest Trading, which specialises in house nests or white nests.
Flown in from Sabah: Ho (right) and his marketing director Darren Phung posing with their giant bird’s nests at their booth for the 5th China International Small and Medium Enterprises Fair in Guangzhou. — By Celeste Fong
“This is our first time here (in China),” said Lim, whose company is based in Muar, Johor.
“We started as ‘farmers’ but we built our processing factory two years ago and now we can produce about 50kg of bird’s nests a month,” he said, adding that the distributor price of bird’s nests can go up to 20,000 yuan (RM10,055) per kilogramme in China.
Meanwhile, end users pay between 35,000 and 45,000 yuan (RM17,600 and RM22,630) per kilogramme of bird’s nests.
“I only produce what I can sell and the Malaysian market’s demand is only so much,’’ he said.
Lim admitted that they are now eyeing the Chinese market and that they are moving away to compete with bird’s nests producers from other countries.
“We don’t give them (the bird’s nests) ‘make-up’ (artificial colouring or other additives or preservatives),” he quipped.
Lim said Malaysia has cleaner air and thus the nests are also cleaner.
Toppick International Bhd marketing manager P. S. Tan said it would take a while for the Malaysian bird’s nests producers to penetrate the market in China.
“There are many lao zhi hao (old brands) in Guangzhou (which sell bird’s nests or bird’s nests soup),’’ he said, adding that his company is now looking for a partner in China or for franchisees across China.
“We will also engage in market research to understand the market in China better.’’
Tan also revealed that some traditional Chinese physicians approached him during the fair to suggest working on a collaborative effort to produce bird’s nest essence in capsule form.
It is learnt that the supply to China is predominantly controlled by big companies from Hong Kong and the import tax on bird’s nests imposed by China would hike up prices. These are some of the challenges the Malaysian producers will face.
While the wholesale merchants were mainly exploring the market in China for the “swiflet’s spit”, another Malaysian company took a different approach - selling the bird’s nesting ground!
Swiflet Property Management Sdn Bhd general manager Khoh Kuan Jien said his company is now in the midst of constructing a one-stop centre for swiflet houses comprising 28 units in Mersing.
Each unit is selling at US$250,000.
“The project is approved by the state government and we are here to introduce this project to the Chinese who can now have the opportunity to own a house for swiflets,” he said.
“The response is good and we will arrange for the interested parties to come over to Malaysia for a more detailed briefing and tour,’’ he added.
Khoh said the Chinese know a lot about bird’s nests and the benefits of consuming bird’s nest soup but they do not know how the nests are harvested.
“The site is about 3km away from Mersing and the foundation piling just started on Aug 8,’’ said Khoh, who brought with him some consultants on bird nest cultivation to assist him in explaining the technical side of the project.
“We have more than 10 years of cultivation records to support us and the expected returns are very attractive,’’ he said.
So, it looks like the Chinese can opt to buy bird’s nests or bird nests from Malaysia.
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