Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Sam Sereirath on Sunday called on Cambodians to invest in the construction of white-nest swiftlet farming homes according to quality standards as official exports to China are expected to begin late next year.

He said this during a workshop on The Ultimate Architecture of Modern Design: Swiftlet Home Preservation for the Middle-Income Class.

With negotiations on a Sino-Cambodian free trade agreement scheduled for December 4, the Kingdom’s edible bird’s nest products will have a bigger market as China is the world’s largest consumer, Sereirath said.

“China is a huge, limitless market for edible bird’s nest. This is an opportunity for Cambodians to start businesses and build swiftlet homes which will provide long-term benefits,” he said.

He said only four Cambodian agricultural products have been officially authorised for export to China – corn, cassava, rice and yellow bananas.

The Kingdom is currently negotiating the export of other products such as edible bird’s nests, mangoes, chilli peppers, dragon fruits, longan and fragrant coconuts, he said.

Ngin Chhay, the director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ General Directorate of Agriculture, said the Kingdom must pay close attention to the preparation of swiftlet homes and environments.

The ministry has strived to ensure that the homes meet technical, sanitary and phytosanitary standards according to the demand of importing countries, he said, adding that he expects official edible bird’s nest exports to begin by the end of next year.

The procedure to obtain China’s approval for swiftlet product exports is broken down into six stages, Chhay said, with Cambodia nearing the third phase – Chinese customs authorities inspecting quality and phytosanitary standards.

Meav Soktry, the secretary-general of the Cambodia Swiftlet Federation, an organisation that promotes the export of bird’s nests, said that without an official market in China, Taiwan and Japan are currently the Kingdom’s largest markets.

Cambodian edible bird’s nest products have also been showcased in Australia, the US and the UK.

In 2003, the number of swiftlet homes in the Kingdom swelled to more than 3,000, but has since dwindled to only around 1,500 due to a lack of technical standards, Soktry said, adding that developing a swiftlet home can cost more than $3 million.

Cambodia Bird’s Nest Federation president Nang Sothy said the Kingdom’s edible bird’s nest market is worth between $50 and $100 million per annum.

Cambodia exported $700 million worth of goods to China and imported $5 billion in the first nine months of this year, a Ministry of Commerce report said.

Last year, the bilateral trade volume between the two countries was worth about $7.4 billion. Of that Cambodian exports were worth $1.37 billion, up 37 per cent compared to 2017, while imports were worth more than $6 billion, up 26 per cent.

In January, leaders of both countries vowed to boost bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2023.