This paper analyzes the existence of edible-nest swiftlet as part of commodity exports from Indonesia. About 90% of edible-nest swiftlet was exported; while domestic consumption was quite minor, namely 5%. Indonesia was recorded as the biggest exporter in the world sharing around 70-80% of the global market of edible-nest swiftlet which generates potential foreign exchange for the country. Almost all productions are originated from farming developed from traditional farming up to modern intensive practices. The business of cultivation and export of edible-nest swiftlet has a positive impact on the people and economy through increasing the country's income and foreign exchange from exports. The Government of Indonesia has provided policy support through issuing some regulations regarding the existence of edible-nest swiftlet in the country. For product safety assurance, all edible-nest swiftlet business units are encouraged to have a Veterinary Control Number (VCN) certification. Hence, it is required to synergize policy support particularly the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade to develop the edible-nest swiftlet in the country.
Keywords: edible-nest swiftlet, development, export, policy, analysis, Indonesia
Swiftlet is any of various cave-dwelling swifts that produce the nest used in human life (edible-nest swiftlet). Biologically, this bird belongs to the genus Collocalia or Aerodramus, including Collocalia fucipharga (white swiftlet). The edible-nest swiftlet feeds over a range of habitats from coastal areas to the mountains, occurring up to 2,800 meters above sea level. This bird generally occurs around the forests, the forest edge, and in open country areas. It is predominantly found throughout the surrounding South East Asian region which has a large range starting from Hainan Island spanning along the coasts of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia (Figure 1).
The edible bird’s nest is known as “yànwō” in Chinese or “sarang burung walet” in Indonesian, which is translated literally as “swallow” or “swift’s nest” that often serves as a synonym for bird’s nest soup. The Chinese have been eating the nest of the swiftlet for over 1,000 years. For centuries in China, these nests have been considered nourishing and tasty as well as a booster of health for the sick and aging; they are even believed to be an aphrodisiac. Moreover, the trade of swiftlet nests began in China during the T’ang Dynasty in A.D. 618-907 (MacKay, 1993). China is the prime consumer of a soup made from these nests (bird's nest soup). The demand for their nests as a food delicacy has been growing exponentially on a global scale powered by the many affluent Chinese communities living throughout the world.
China is the world’s largest consumer of edible-nest swiftlet, accounting for more than 90% of the market. There are a few countries in Southeast Asia that produce the edible-nest swiftlet and export it to the demanded market. They are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Indonesia is the biggest source of edible-nest swiftlet in the region, exporting around 2,000 tons per year, followed by Vietnam at 800 tons per year, Malaysia at 600 tons per year, and Thailand at 400 tons per year (Tangjitmanngamkul, 2019 and Ito et al., 2021). The edible-nest swiftlet from different countries differs in taste and quality which influences the price. Table 1 shows the rank of edible-nest swiftlet from the primary producing countries.
The objective of this paper is to analyze the existence of edible-nest swiftlet as part of potential commodity exports from Indonesia. It includes the development, trade, policy support, conclusion, and policy implication for this commodity of the country.
EXISTENCE OF EDIBLE-NEST SWIFTLET
Basically, the swiftlet in Indonesia derives from natural habitat/in-situ and artificial habitat/ex-situ (Figure 2 and Figure 3). The natural habitat includes the environmental caves and cliffs/slopes of steep hills both in and outside forest areas, while the artificial habitat encompasses domestic swiftlet or swiftlet farming practices (MoFP, 1999). The production from natural habitats is considered unsustainable and has been greatly decreased due to overharvesting. Presently, almost all productions are originated from farming (Mardiastuti, 2011).
The edible-nest swiftlet can be found in certain regions of Indonesia, namely from the western part (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bali, and West Nusa Tenggara), central part (Sulawesi), up to the eastern part (Maluku). The history of practice of swiftlet farming was started in East Java in 1880 (Mardiastuti, 2011). Within this time, the Dutch colonial authority purchased nest-collecting rights from feudal rulers in Java and subsequently leased them to collectors (Thorburn, 2014). The swiftlet is both ecologically and economically beneficial for the environment as well as for humans. From an ecological perspective, swiftlet serves as biological predators against insects which are considered pests for cultivated plants. From economic views, swiftlet nests are considered as precious and luxury products, making them highly-priced in the global market and are often being termed as “the caviar of the East” or “tropical white gold” (Nugroho and Budiman 2013; Thorburn, 2015; Connolly 2016; and Looi et al., 2016 as cited by Mursidah et al., 2020).
Essentially, Indonesia has 12 species of swiftlets, three of which have been commonly harvested for a long time. They are: (1) Collocalia fuciphaga (white-nest swiftlet); (2) Collocalia maxima (black-nest swiftlet); and (3) Collocalia linchii (cave swiftlet). The location area and description of these types of swiftlets can be seen in Table 2.
The white-nest swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga) is the most valuable as compared to the black-nest swiftlet (Collocalia maxima) and cave swiftlet (Collocalia linchii). The species of Collocalia fuciphaga comprises five sub-species that have been identified in certain regions of Indonesia. They are: (1) Collocalia fuciphaga vestita in Sumatra and Kalimantan; (2) Collocalia fuciphaga fuciphaga in Java, Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa; (3) Collocalia fuciphaga perplexa in Maratua island in East Kalimantan; (4) Collocalia fuciphaga dammermani in Flores; (5) Collocalia fuciphaga micans in Sumba, Timor. To maximize the nest production, Collocalia fuciphaga (white-nest swiftlet) has been farmed in houses, modified in such a way to resemble the natural caves as roosting/nesting sites (Mardiastuti, 2011). The distributions of wild and farm swiftlets can be seen in Figure 4 and Figure 5.
The edible-nest swiftlet is one of the most famous foods globally and is considered one of the prestigious foods. Swallows (Collocalia sp), as one of the biological resources, have much content that is productive for health, including containing glycoproteins and rich in minerals such as amino acids, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Proteins and amino acids help the process of cell renewal in the human body and increase the body's metabolism. In addition to having good health benefits, many people believe bird nests can be alternative medicine (Budiman, 2007).
EDIBLE-NEST SWIFTLET DEVELOPMENT
The development of swiftlet farming practices in Indonesia encompasses three periods (Mardiastuti, 2011 and Ito et al., 2021). First, traditional farming period (the 1900s-1950s): relied on chance and luck. Second, semi-traditional (the 1950s-1990s): some management had been developed by individual farmers/house owners, but each farmer/house owner kept their management secret from each other. Third, modern-intensive (1990s-present): intensive management and open communication among house owners.
According to Mardiastuti (2011), intensive management of swiftlet farming involves several steps. They are: (1) Selecting appropriate sites to build swiftlet houses; (2) Inventing suitable design of the compartments inside the houses; (3) Selecting material for roosting/nesting sites inside the houses, utilization of various electronic, and mechanical devices to attract swiftlet to roost in certain houses; (3) Developing founder population in a new site, provision of insect food in and around houses; (4) Manipulating humidity and temperature inside the houses; (5) Controlling pests and other potential nuisance; and (6) Developing more appropriate scheme for harvesting and population growth. Nowadays, guideline materials such as books, manuals, practical courses, as well as consultation on how to start and/or expand swiftlet business can be simply found in Indonesia. However, the probability of a house to be used by swiftlet for roosting/nesting and starting a new colony remains uncertain.
There are 18 producing provinces with the potential of more than 800 edible-nest swiftlet farming houses per province, and as many as 520 swallow houses that have been registered in the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture by Agricultural Quarantine Agency (DGLAH, 2020). The largest production area was Java Island (55 tons/year). The edible-nest swiftlet farming houses in Java are scattered at the north coast, from the west in Labuan (Banten province) to the east in Banyuwangi (East Java province). The central producing areas in Java (production of more than 2 tons/year) include Cirebon, Haur Geulis, Pemalang, Pekalongan, Purwodadi, and Gresik. Moreover, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi are currently recorded as the new central producing areas of edible-nest swiftlet in the country (Mardiastuti, 2011). The swiftlet business has good prospects to develop because it has high economic value and provides benefits for health. Cultivation efforts are still openly carried out in the swallow house in various production centers. Facilitating swallow houses and washing infrastructure to business actors will have a better economic impact.
EDIBLE-NEST SWIFTLET TRADE
Edible-nest swiftlet is known to have a pretty fantastic price. Among other things, this is because: (1) High capital business; (2) Less harvest yield; (3) Uneasy processing practices; (4) High nutritional content; (5) Served at exclusive restaurants; and (6) Rare export commodity (M.clicks.id, 2021).
The domestic price of edible-nest swiftlet varies between regions and over time. The high and low prices are determined by demand. When the demand drops, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the price declines to US$414-483/kg (Sumardi, et al., 2018). The price depends upon the quality-based shape (Table 3), namely: (1) bowl edible-nest swiftlet (high quality); (2) angle edible-nest swiftlet (middle quality); and (3) broken edible-nest swiftlet (low quality).
The marketing channel of edible-nest swiftlet involves certain actors, namely producers, collectors, middlemen, wholesalers/inter-island traders, and exporters (Figure 6). The length of the marketing channel depends on location accessibility from the production area to the market destination.
The marketing channel of artificial edible-nest swiftlet (farmhouse) is generally short, involving 2-3 traders. On the contrary, the marketing channel for natural edible-nest swiftlet is quite long, especially from the production area (cave, forest area, etc.) with limited access to the market destination. It involves middlemen and inter-island traders unless the producers are the owner of the area concession. Most big-scale traders and exporters are in Jakarta and other big cities such as Semarang, Surabaya, and Medan, who have importer customers in certain destination countries-based product designation quality.
The extent of Indonesian domestic consumption of edible-nest swiftlet was quite low, namely about 5%. Consequently, the majority (95%) of edible-nest swiftlet of this country is exported (Economy.okezone.com, 2018). There are 14 destination countries of edible-nest swiftlet of Indonesia, namely Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, USA, Canada, and Australia. The main destination was Hong Kong, China, Singapore, USA, and Vietnam. The majority (69.26%) was exported to Hong Kong and China (Figure 7).
During the last five years (2016-2020), Indonesia has exported 5,999 tons of edible-nest swiftlet with a value of US$1,592 million. On average, the exported volume and value of exported edible-nest swiftlet from the country was 1,199 tons and US$318 million per year, respectively (Figure 8). The exported volume increased about 5.11% per year, while the export value improved by 25.56% annually.
The total volume and value of Indonesia’s edible-nest swiftlet export by main destination countries are presented in Figure 9 and Figure 10. It reveals that the highest volume and value was to Hong Kong and China, namely 47.95% and 52.74% of the total edible-nest swiftlet export of the country.
During the last five years (2016-2020), the highest export volume of edible-nest swiftlet was to Hong Kong (589 tons/year) followed by Vietnam (398 tons/year). Both countries were recorded as largest export growth rate, namely 47.95% and 32.42% annually.
Despite the export volume of edible-nest swiftlet to China (108 tons/year) was lower as particularly compared to Hong Kong (589 tons/year); the value was higher (US$182.9 million vs. US$100.6 million). This is because China requires high quality standard of edible-nest swiftlet for domestic consumption. The edible nest-swiftlet exports to China are dynamic, in 2013 China banned imports so that in 2014 there were no exports from Indonesia. Therefore, the main export destination countries of edible-nest swiftlet from Indonesia are Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Singapore. Among these three countries, Hong Kong is a market that has the potential to be developed in the future. The edible-nest swiftlet exports to China reopened in 2017, and from 2019 to 2021, the Chinese market became the main market of the edible-nest swiftlet from Indonesia. From 2016 to 2020, the growth rate of the edible-nest swiftlet export to China was extremely high, namely 92.75% annually.
Among the main export destination countries, nine countries i.e., China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Lao PDR and Australia are members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP). The main export destination countries for edible-nest swiftlet from Indonesia to RECP countries were Singapore, Vietnam, and China with volume market shares of 53.0%, 32.9%, and 6.7% of the total RCEP market (Table 4). The potential market was China and Vietnam. The export market share in these two countries showed a positive growth trend of 28.3% with an export value of US$7.1 million in the Vietnam market and 17.1% with an export value of US$48.4 million in the Chinese export market. In contrast, the Singaporean export market decreased by 17.1% due to the expansion of exports to the Vietnamese market. For the RCEP export market, the trend of export growth is 10% per year, with an export value of US$108.2 million. This shows that the export value of edible-nest swiftlet from Indonesia was high value and can be a source of foreign exchange for the country.
The competitor of Indonesia for edible-nest swiftlet in the RCEP was Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It notes that Indonesia’s export of this commodity was carried out through the export markets of Malaysia and Singapore because in 2005 there was an issue of bird flu hit edible-nest swiftlet of the country in which Indonesia was not allowed exporting directly to China. Consequently, this was detrimental to Indonesia’s edible-nest swiftlet because the intermediary countries had taken advantage.
The performance and competitiveness of edible-nest swiftlet are influenced by the prevailing policies of the importing countries. China, in particular, since 2012 has issued a new regulation on producer registration carried out by the Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) for imported food products unilaterally. Consequently, Indonesia could not directly export enable-nest swiftlet to China due to technical implementation related to sanitary and phytosanitary measures through establishing certification process and administrative accreditation. This licensing system is quite complex, non-transparent, and discretionary (freedom to make own decision) enforced to imported edible-nest swiftlet from Indonesia (CAQAB, 2013). One of good lessons learned in relation to exported edible-nest swiftlet is presented in Box 1.
The Government of Indonesia has provided policy support through issuing some regulations regarding the existence of edible-nest swiftlet in the country. It comprises, among other things, are as follows:
- Decree of the Minister of Forestry and Plantations Number 449/1999 on the Management of Swiftlet (Collocalia spp) in Natural (In-Situ) and Artificial (Ex-Situ) Habitats. It aims at: (1) Maintaining and protecting the preservation of swiftlets in both natural and artificial habitats from the danger of extinction; and (2) Increasing the production of swiftlet nests as an effort of maximizing the welfare of the people (MoFP, 1999).
- Decree of the Minister of Forestry Number 100/2003 on Guidelines for Utilization of Swiftlet Nest (Collocalia spp). It covers the guidelines for the use of swiftlet nests from natural habitats (MoF, 2003).
- Decree of the DG of the Agricultural Quarantine Agency Number 374/2010 on Technical Instructions for Handling and Inspecting Swiftlet Nest. It is a guideline for animal quarantine officers in carrying out handling and inspections to ensure the safety and health of traded bird nests through quarantine measures against trafficked bird nests for the health of consumers (IAQA, 2010).
- Regulation of the Minister of Trade Number 51/2012 on Provisions on Export of Swiftlet Nests to the People’s Republic of China (MoT, 2012).
- Law Number 21/2019 on Animal, Fish, and Plant Quarantines (GoI, 2019).
- Regulation of Minister of Agriculture Number 26/2020 on Animal Quarantine Measures on the Importation or Export of Swiftlet Nests to and from within Indonesia. It aims to prevent the entry, spread, and release of quarantine animal pests into or out of Indonesia and provide health protection and animal quarantine measures carried out against swiftlet nests (MoA, 2020a).
- Regulation of the Minister of Trade Number 19/2021 on Export Policies related to registered exporters, export approval, authority, exporter requirements, procedures for applying for export permits, issuance of export licenses, determination of export restricted goods, technical verification or investigation, determination of place of release of goods, exporter’s obligations, prohibition for exporters, penalty, and supervision (MoT, 2021).
Edible-nest swiftlet is the leading export commodity of the Indonesian livestock sector. During 2013-2020, the amount of exported edible-nest swiftlet reached 75% of the total export of livestock commodities. The highest export value was achieved in 2020, namely 87%, or the highest for the last eight years (BPS 2020). Indonesia is one of the largest producers with the best quality in the world with sharing of about 70%. Hence, the Ministry of Agriculture through the Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health is committed to increasing the edible-nest swiftlet exports in line with Export Triple Movement (GraTiEks) program (DGLAH, 2021).
For product safety assurance, all edible-nest swiftlet business units are encouraged to have a Veterinary Control Number (VCN) certification. Currently, there are 65 edible-nest swiftlet businesses that have already been certified and the Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health (DGLAH) continues to encourage the edible-nest swiftlet production from business units to obtain the VCN. The exported edible-nest swiftlet is no longer in the form of raw material, but products that have processes through the washing stage toward increasing the added value and competitiveness of the product (DGLAH, 2020).
Based on the Decree of the Minister of Agriculture Number 4918/2020 on Additional Types of Commodity Derivative Products Guided by the DGLAH and the Indonesian Customs Tariff Book in 2017, it is determined that edible-nest swiftlet with HS code 0410.00.10 is a commodity developed by the Ministry of Agriculture (c/q DGLAH). There are some regulations related to this matter (DGLAH, 2021), namely:
- Circular Letter of Ministry of Environment and Forestry Number 3/2018 on Guideline for Edible-nest Swiftlet Utilization (MoEF, 2018).
- Regulation of Ministry of Agriculture Number 11/2020 on Veterinary Control Number (VCN) Certification for Animal Products Business Unit (MoA, 2020b).
- Decree of Ministry of Agriculture Number 104/2020 on Commodities Assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture related to Edible-nest Swiftlet with HS code 04100010 is a commodity under the guidance of the Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health (MoA, 2020c).
- Decree of Ministry of Agriculture Number 4918/2020 on PKH Additional Types and Derivative Products of Commodities Assisted by the Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health (MoA, 2020d).
CONCLUSION AND POLICY IMPLICATION
Indonesia is the biggest source of edible-nest swiftlet among primary producing countries in the Southeast Asia region. Almost all productions are originated from farming. The extent of Indonesian domestic consumption of edible-nest swiftlet was quite low, namely about 5%. Consequently, the majority (95%) of edible-nest swiftlet of this country is exported.
The business of cultivation and export of edible nest-swiftlet has a positive impact on the people and economy through increasing the country's income and foreign exchange from exports. This is a business field with intensive capital that has the potential to continue to be developed throughout Indonesia. It is supported by a fairly high demand from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam which can only be met from Indonesia with good swiftlet quality.
The Government of Indonesia has provided policy support through issuing some regulations regarding the existence of edible-nest swiftlet in the country. For product safety assurance, all edible-nest swiftlet business units are encouraged to have a Veterinary Control Number (VCN) certification. There is a need for synergy within the Ministry of Agriculture; in this case, the Agricultural Quarantine Agency and the Directorate General of Livestock and Animal Health, between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade as well as with related ministries and institutions. The Ministry of Agriculture as the supervisor of the upstream or production process needs to receive information related to the market share as well as the terms and conditions so that it can avoid rejection when the exported eligible-nest swiftlets have arrived at the destination countries.
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