SINGAPORE: China has imposed a temporary restriction on imports of bird’s nest from Malaysia, following an outbreak of bird flu in the northeastern state of Kelantan.
The highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus was first detected on Mar 6 among a few free-range chickens. Eighteen villages in the state capital of Kota Bharu have been affected and almost 25,000 birds - mainly chickens, ducks and geese - were culled.
Following China’s ban, Malaysia's Veterinary Services Department (DVS) sent letters to the Chinese authorities to explain the situation and the measures being taken to curb the spread of the disease, a report by the New Straits Times daily said.
"We also explained that the chicken and duck (populations) in Kelantan only comprise 0.5 per cent of the total population nationwide,” the newspaper cited DVS as saying. “The production of commercial eggs is fully run outside Kelantan.
"(Finally), the sources of raw clean edible bird’s nest, which are meant for export, are from outside Kelantan. The supply sources can be traced through a system adopted by the department," it said.
Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek told reporters on Saturday (Mar 18): "Through it, we can identify where the bird's nest is coming from, which birdhouse, village and state. If it is found there are matters that are not permitted, action will be taken on the affected area without involving its bird's nest nationwide."
Shabery added that his ministry will send representatives to China to further explain the situation. "There should not be any concern from China or other countries to restrict the export of poultry and bird's nest from Malaysia," Bernama quoted him as saying.
Malaysia exports about RM135 million (US$30 million) worth of bird's nest to China a year, according to Shabery.
"The value of the exports is high, therefore, we do not want farmers and entrepreneurs to suffer continued losses," he said.
Shabery said his ministry was also prepared to consider “a more appropriate form of compensation” for farmers and operators if the outbreak recurs.
"The prices of bird's nest and the birds go up and down, and it is something the farmers must face as there is no longer a scheme whereby if the price is low, the government has to pay," he added.