The Kingdom’s remains bogged down in efforts to officially export edible bird’s nest to China, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on April 1.
Edible bird’s nest is made from the dried saliva of Southeast Asia’s white-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus).
Traditionally, the processed swiftlet nest is double boiled with rock sugar to make a delicacy known as “bird’s nest soup”, which is rich in nutrients and has the purported health benefits of boosting a person’s immune system and sex drive.
Ngin Chhay, director-general of the ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture, told The Post that Chinese authorities only consider a single product per country at a time to import.
This, combined with domestically-processed bird’s nest generally falling short of local authorities’ quality expectations, has dampened the prospects of official exports of the commodity in the near future, he said.
He noted that officials were in the process of preparing the required documents, but that the application for bird’s nest would have to wait for negotiations on sanitary and phytosanitary issues to conclude for mangoes and Pailin longan first, due to China’s single-product approach.
In early June, Cambodia and China signed an agreement that would pave the way for an annual 500,000 tonne export quota for fresh Cambodian mangoes of the Keo Romiet variety, but Chinese phytosanitary restrictions have kept the first commercial shipment from being sent.
“We are currently pushing hard for fresh mangoes, which have reached the final stages [of negotiations], and then [we’ll move on] to Pailin longan,” Chhay added. “We would like to ask the Chinese side to negotiate two or more items at a time.”
There is a domestic shortage in factories and cottage industries to process bird’s nest, he said, adding that, by and large, they fail to meet internationally-recognised standards.
“Cambodia has not yet set up any ISO-certified processing plant,” he said, citing research conducted by authorities.
There are currently four Cambodia agricultural products officially authorised for export to China – corn, cassava, milled rice and bananas.
Cambodia Bird’s Nest Federation president Nang Sothy said pandemic lockdown measures had led to substantial delays in in-person field inspections by Chinese experts.
“The official export of edible bird’s nest to China will take a long time, as there are still two important items ahead of it,” he said.
With lots of local operations in natural areas and away from industrial plant smoke, Sothy contended that Cambodia’s bird nest is internationally recognised for its quality.
He said prices of the commodity have remained flat since end-2020, with un-cleaned edible bird’s nests currently worth $500-800 per kilogramme and cleaned ones hovering in the $1,800-$3,500 range, depending on quality.
With at least 3,000 white-nest swiftlet homes in Cambodia, he said between 1,000kg and 1,500kg of the delicacy can be harvested per month in the Kingdom.