Friday, October 17, 2008

Distribution of Edible Nests in the Philippines

At first thought to be found only in Palawan, edible nests actually are found in other parts of the Philippine archipelago. Nests have been found in as far north as Cagayan and as far south as Sulu. In between they are also found in Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Mindoro, Bicol, Davao, Cotabato, Agusan, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, Bukidnon and Surigao. These nests are collected by local inhabitants and sold to a local buyer who in turn sells them to a dealer in either Zamboanga, Davao, Cebu or Binondo. The cleaned and processed product usually ends up in China carried by traveling Chinese-Filipinos as pasalubong.

Cultured nest from Malaysia. Triangular shape
indicates its a "corner" nest, which lowers its price.
These nests fetch between US$1,500-$2,000 farmgate.

Local nest sample from Mindanao. Cleaned, these nests fetch up to P18,000.

Mindanao nests fetch a lower price (P15, 000 – P25, 000 per kg) than Palawan nests (P180, 000 per kg as of Sept 2007), both unprocessed. Raw local nests are generally classified as first, second and third classes depending on the color, saliva content and shape. The local selling price for these nests range from P28, 000 to P630, 000 per kilogram, processed. Unregulated gathering has severely depleted the swiftlet population and threatens the sustainability of the edible nest-gathering industry. This threat, of course, does not apply to cultured nests. However, the Philippines does not have a cultured nest industry – until possibly now.

Esculenta colony inside a house in Bukidnon. Swift colonies in houses can be
found throughout the archipelago.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Creating the Philippine Cultured Edible Birds' Nest Industry

It’s All About China: By 2010 many experts believe that China will have eclipsed the U. S. and Europe as the world’s biggest economy. China’s economy has been growing at a frenetic pace for about two decades and this trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. If China buys, the world suffers a shortage. This can be seen in the demand for oil, steel, rubber and the ultimate Chinese epicurean delight – edible bird’s nest.

The demand for edible bird’s nest (EBN) has always exceeded supply and in 2006 farm gate prices (Malaysia) ranged from US$1,200 to $1,800 per kilogram. Prices for processed nests prior to consumption in Hong Kong were from US$6,000 to $7,000 per kilogram. Total retail turnover in 2004 was estimated at US$ 1.3 billion; by 2006 this had ballooned to US$ 3.8 billion. Historically, demand has grown at approximately 15% a year.[1]

Suppliers of Edible Bird’s Nest: Indonesia (60%), Thailand (20%) and Malaysia (15%) are the major EBN producers with Vietnam and Myanmar steadily increasing their production. Nests are also sourced from Sri Lanka, India and – the Philippines. There is no record of Philippine production figures although traditionally the nests are found in El Nido in northern Palawan.[2]

World’s Top EBN Producers, 2006[3]

Indonesia - 60%
Thailand - 20%
Malaysia - 15%
Vietnam, Myanmar, etc. - 5%

Cultured Edible Nests: Originally the swiftlets that produce the nests settled in caves but today the technology for culturing the nests in purpose-built structures exists. The technology was first developed in Indonesia and was transferred to Malaysia by Indonesian ethnic Chinese after the Indonesian race riots in 1997.

Today Indonesia is estimated to have at least 150,000 nest farms while Malaysia, which had a mere 150 nests farms before 1997, reports 30,000 nest farms by mid-2005. Thailand, a latecomer, now has 70,000 farms while Vietnam has 5,000 farms. There are no nests farms in the Philippines.

[1] Hai and Lee. The Complete Introductory Guide to Swiftlet Farming, .Struan Inc. Sdn. Bhd, Penang, Malaysia, 2006.
[2] Philippine annual production is estimated at 5 tons.
[3] 2007 Malaysian Swiftlet Farming Industry Report

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creating Sustainable New Wealth

The purpose of this blog is to encourage the creation of an industry that will create wealth for Filipinos, many of them living in the edge of our social, political and economic currents. The Philippines holds an enormous potential for cultured edible birds' nests (EBN). In 2007 the world market was estimated at US$4 BILLION, up from US$1.7B in 2004. Malaysia's industry estimates that the market will grow by double digits for at least the next two decades. If Indonesia has approximately 150,000 nest farms and Thailand, 50,000, Malaysia, 36,000, then a few thousand nest farms lies entirely in the realm of possibility for our country. Philippine production figures are not reflected in the region's reports but is estimated at 5 tons a year - a drop in the bucket of the 200 tons a year market. All of these nests come from caves harvested with little regard for the breeding cycle and sustainability of the trade. Unless nest farming technology is adopted, the famous El Nido nests will be a thing of the past, like T. Rex.
The information contained in this blog is open to all and is the result of almost five years of research and experimentation on EBN farming in the Philippines. Comments are most certainly welcome.