Cambodia is expected to be officially exporting edible bird’s nest to the Chinese market next year, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Ngin Chhay said on Tuesday.
Late last month, Chhay, who is the director-general of the ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture, led a delegation of ministry officials to China to discuss exporting edible bird’s nest, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.
Edible bird’s nests, which are made from the dried saliva of Southeast Asia’s white-nest swiftlet, are in high demand in China.
Chhay told The Post on Tuesday that ministry experts are translating Chinese language documents on the conditions the Kingdom will need to meet, which include guarantees on clean environments for raising the swiftlets, processing plants and other facilities.
“The department is working hard negotiating with the Chinese side to make sure our swiftlet saliva products are officially exported to China,” he said.
Data on Cambodia’s edible bird’s nest industry is not officially recorded. Most operations are family or individually owned and trade and export informal.
Cambodia Bird’s Nest Federation president Nang Sothy said official Cambodian edible bird’s nest exports to China would benefit the market, which is currently dominated by private traders.
“A formal Chinese market will boost raisers’ confidence, encourage careful selection and stabilise quality and price,” Sothy said.
Edible bird’s nests were mostly raised only in coastal provinces – particularly Koh Kong – but the practice is now found in almost every province, he said.
In June, Sothy told The Post: “The increase [in the current trend of raising swallows] is mainly due to expectations of [access to the] Chinese market, in line with new technologies which have made raising [swiftlets] easier.”
There are currently between 3,000 and 5,000 swiftlet homes in the Kingdom, he said.
He said uncleaned edible bird’s nest is currently worth between $750 and $850 per kilogramme, while cleaned ones cost between $1,500 and $3,500 depending on quality.
Between 800kg and 1,500kg of edible bird’s nest can be harvested in the Kingdom, Sothy said, of which around 30 per cent is for domestic consumption and 70 per cent for export – mostly informally to China.
In 2016, the global market for edible bird’s nest was estimated at $5 billion per year, said Federation of Malaysian Bird’s Nest Merchants Association president Tok Teng Sai, as reported by Bloomberg.
China was the largest market, with Indonesia and Malaysia the world’s leading suppliers.