China has temporarily banned the import of bird's nest from Malaysia, after the bird flu outbreak in the northeastern state of Kelantan. On March 6, the highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus was first detected among a few free-range chickens and at least 18 villages were affected in the state capital of Kota Bharu with almost 25,000 birds, mainly chickens, ducks and geese, being culled.
The New Straits Times daily reported that following the ban, Malaysia's Veterinary Services Department (DVS) sent letters to the Chinese authorities explaining the current scenario and the measures that have been taken to curb the spread of the disease.
The newspaper cited DVS as saying: "We also explained that the chicken and duck (populations) in Kelantan only comprise 0.5 per cent of the total population nationwide. "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," the statement added.
Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister told Bernama on Saturday: "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 the ministry will send its representatives to China in order to explain the situation further. "There should not be any concern from China or other countries to restrict the export of poultry and bird's nest from Malaysia," he said.
According to Shabery, every year, Malaysia exports about RM135 million (US$30 million) of bird's nest to China. "The value of the exports is high, therefore, we do not want farmers and entrepreneurs to suffer continued losses," he said.
Shabery said that in case the outbreak recurs, his ministry has also planned to consider "a more appropriate form of compensation" for farmers and operators.
"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.