The Swiftlet nest industry has been here since a very long time ago. But only a handful of people are involved in harvesting the nests, mostly from caves found deep in our jungle.
Then, due to some reasons,the swiftlets began migrating. They migrated to cities and towns. They were enticed or coaxed into left-idle buildings by their own melodies in the form of swiftlet calls.
They later found that buildings are more comfortable to nest in and food is plentiful within a short flying distance.
The useless nobody-wanted old buildings then suddenly turned into gold or money to be more accurate!
Why? The bird nests fetch prices few people could imagine.
Yesterday I went around Rompin and neighbouring Pekan to actually see what is going on with the industry.
Swiftlet houses were sprouting everywhere. Many were large either two or three storey high buildings. These I was not very interested. They were very expensive to build and they were owned by rich people.
What I was more interested was in the smaller version of swiftlet houses built to the existing human houses. In Merchong, there were around twenty such houses.
In one entreprenaur (soon to be a silent millionaire I presume) he was giving up his house to the swiftlets. His small room has been converted into a swiftlet house and entering the room I was surprised. Surprised to see so many swiftlets flying in and out of the house. Equally suprised to see so many nests on the meranti planks and even on the unplastered bricks!
He told me that 118 - 120 nests made a kilogram and a kilogram of nests could readily be sold for RM4700!
Another entreprenaur was more interesting. He said he regretted renovating his house. He should instead spend more money on his swiftlet house.
His swiftlet house was his old wooden house near the South China Sea. By just building an entry chimney like structure and slight modification to the old house, birds had come in and made it their house!
In Nenasi, another very successful Malay entreprenaur told me that he had started the busines in 1987. That time everybody thought that he was crazy. He had singlehandedly increase the value of the land around Nenasi with his swiftlet house.
Now he has a 20 X 80 swiftlet house that had costed him RM 160,000 and his harvest was around 500 nests per harvest.
He was not stingy with his knowledge and skill. He showed us into his house (no other entreprenaur will do this). He sowed us that young birds tend to build their nests around corners. These corner nests are smaller and usually fall into grade B nest and fetch a significantly lower price of RM 3500/kg.
To overcome this he placed corner pieces bought at RM1.20/piece to prevent formation of these smaller nests.
All in all the visit was very useful and informative. It is true as what they all said: The nests are indeed BOUNTIES FROM THE SKY presented to them by ALLAH!