About 800 swiftlet breeders participated in the ‘Rescue Swiftlet Breeders Assembly’ organised by the Malaysia Swiftlet Breeders Association (MSBA) in Seberang Jaya yesterday.
This was in protest of an announcement by Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Deputy Minister Chua Tee Yong (left) that Malaysia will adopt stringent 12 health-related guidelines to check bird’s nest exports to China.
The breeders also opposed the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) requirement stipulated by Beijing, which the ministry said is still applicable, although negotiations are in progress.
Since July 2, MBSA has managed to collect about 700 signatures to protest the new rules and system. Its members intend to submit the signatures and a memorandum to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
Before the event started, the crowd held banners and shouted "Rescue Swiftlet Breeders, Ensure Economic Stability and Transparency in Policy" three times.
Several banners with slogans like ‘Noh Omar, Chua Tee Yong, Liow Tiong Lai, let the swiftlet breeders survive!’; Prime Minister, please find out the liar’; ‘When can swiftlet breeders stop feeling upset?’; and ‘Officer-trader collusion is depriving the swiftlet breeders’ were displayed outside and within the venue.
Malaysia Bird's Nest Action Committee advisor and state Gerakan Wanita head Ng Siew Lai participated as a speaker.
MBSA president Ang Bak Khoon (right) said breeders have not accepted the new guidelines, especially the RFID system, and will continue to fight the matter until their demands are met.
He said the authorities have proposed that the RFID system be implemented at factories involved in the cleaning and processing of bird’s nest.
The new guidelines and system will involve bureaucracy in obtaining the necessary certificates and permits, he noted.
Although this excludes the ‘farmers’ - those involved in breeding swiftlets and harvesting bird’s nest - these measures will affect their business as well, he said.
"We are told that China has made several requests. But in business, it is possible to negotiate, so why is there no international negotiation?" he asked.
"These proposals will only benefit eight companies (which will provide the system) but will affect the livelihood of 73,000 farmers and 25,000 processors, turning the business into a sunset industry.”
‘Not nuclear bombs’
Association advisor David Lim asked why the government has to impose new and high technology when swiftlet farming is a "simple industry".
"Please do not think that we are manufacturing nuclear bombs," he said.
During the question-and-answer session, the farmers urged Noh, Omar and Liow to provide a clear explanation of the new guidelines and the RFID system.
Since federal minister and Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon has confirmed that China is not making RFID mandatory, the farmers want Najib to "identify the liar" who had claimed that the system is compulsory.
The participants also demanded the resignation of the Veterinary Services Department head for his "incompetency", while other expressed willingness to lodge a police report to find out who had lied about the matter.