Written by Li Hongting / Translated by Chen Zhiying
As a high-nutrition specialty in Southeast Asia and one of the three treasures of Malaysia, bird nests win the hearts of Chinese consumers and become the most popular products at the Malaysian Exhibition Hall at the annual China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO). CAEXPO serves as a bridge for China and Malaysia to carry out exchanges and trade in bird nests, and through the platform, bird nests from Malaysia pour into the Chinese market, becoming a competitive industry between both sides.
Known to more people at the CAEXPO
Bird nests in Malaysia feature fine quality, high output, and good nutrition. In recent years, with the growing demand for bird nests in the Chinese markets, China and Malaysia have seen huge cooperation potential in the area. Malaysia attaches increasing attention to protecting swiftlets and developing the swiftlet farming industry scientifically, encourages local bird nest businessmen to involve more in developing the industry, and promotes the expansion of trade in bird nests with China.
As a major platform for economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN, CAEXPO provides a convenient and effective channel for ASEAN enterprises and commodities to enter the Chinese market. Over the past 19 years, CAEXPO has displayed food and beverage, consumer goods, bulk raw materials, products in the service sector, etc., attarcting many well-known enterprises to participate. For Malaysia, CAEXPO provides cooperation opportunities for its bird nest industry.
Malaysia’s bird nest businessman Wong Mingjing has taken part in the CAECPO for six consecutive years, through which he reached cooperation with agents from Guangzhou. During the 15th CAEXPO, Wong Mingjing, who mainly sold common white bird nests and swiftlet bird nests, brought with him more than 100 kilograms of bird nests. One-third of them were on display at the CAEXPO booth, and the rest was supplied to his agents. Through the CAEXPO, he not only gained considerable economic benefits but also popularized the knowledge of bird nests to Chinese consumers. “In the past, people didn’t know much about red bird nests and thought it was fake. Inviting by the Chinese side, I went to China twice to introduce the red bird nests.”
Besides Wong Mingjing, another bird nest seller at the “Belt and Road” Exhibition Hall at the 19th CAEXPO, Miss Liang, also spoke highly of the CAEXPO. The company she worked for is the agent of Malaysia’s bird nests. The products she sold were the outcomes of the joint efforts of both sides. “With the deepening of regional cooperation in trade, we find that featured products from Southeast Asia see improving quality, but most of them lack export channels, and that’s what the CAEXPO provides.”
Relying on the CAEXPO, many Malaysian bird nest brands gain a lot of benefits. These made-in-Malaysia products account for an increasing share in China. Many Malaysian enterprises regard the CAEXPO held in Nanning as a major must-visit business fair. During the 19th CAEXPO in 2022, Malaysian competitive bird nest brands such as Blue Sky Bird Nest, Dragon Brand, Frucy Land, Golden Mah, HSY, KS Easesources, and Jia Guan Yan participated actively. Bird nests from Malaysia’s Sarawak became known to more Chinese consumers through the CAEXPO.
Take measures to develop high-quality bird nests
How to pick high-quality bird nests and clean them? At the Malaysian Exhibition Hall at the 19th CAEXPO, many Malaysian enterprises cleared consumers’ doubts in the live streaming shopping activities of the Online CAEXPO and introduced bird nests, attracting many audiences online.
As an exhibition closely related to the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), the CAEXPO has always been dedicated to promoting efficient cooperation in various industries between China and Malaysia and upgrading its functions.
In May 2015, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation and the CAEXPO Secretariat worked together to hold a special round-table meeting on Malaysian bird nests in Nanning. Enterprise representatives from the two sides exchanged ideas on bird nest customs clearance, inspection, and quarantine, as well as brand shaping and market expansion with Malaysian and Chinese governments, promoting the development of bird nests, Malaysia’s competitive industry, in China.
In the special procurement matchmaking meeting on ASEAN food during the 15th CAEXPO, 20 domestic bird nest purchasing enterprises were invited to participate for the first time. Special procurement on ASEAN bird nests was set in the Malaysian exhibition hall that gathered the most bird nest enterprises from ASEAN countries, which provided great convenience for domestic agents’ centralized purchase.
With increasing influence, CAEXPO put forward stricter requirements for the quality of bird nests.
The 16th CAEXPO worked with other departments to introduce product certification and traceability systems. Co-organizers from Malaysia asked bird nest exhibits to provide QR codes for source tracing. Through these measures, both sides aimed to control and improve the quality of bird nests. The CAEXPO also implemented a “two certificates system”, which means ASEAN exhibitors have to provide the enterprise qualification certificate issued by the ASEAN co-organizers and the booth confirmation certificate by the CAEXPO Secretariat to take part in the event. Following Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, Malaysia implemented the system in 2019. By taking these measures, CAEXPO enabled a better bite of Malaysia for Chinese consumers.
CAEXPO, a bridge for bilateral trade in bird nests
China and Malaysia boast a long history of trading goods. Malaysia is the world’s second-largest provider of bird nests, while China once served as the largest export market of Malaysia’s bird nests, accounting for 80% of its export. In 2011, China’s business departments detected large amounts of nitrite in the red bird nests imported from Malaysia and thus banned its bird nest exporting to China. This resulted in the overstock of Malaysia’s bird nests and the dilemma of the whole industry. At the end of 2013, China lifted the ban on the products, allowing them to re-enter the Chinese market.
CAEXPO introduced the bird nest processing industry from Malaysia to make a presence in China and offered great conditions for common development and win-win results to the two sides. On November 20, 2019, the Launching Ceremony for the Import and Processing of Malaysian Raw Unclean Bird Nest was held in the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park (CMQIP). First-batch bird nests of 150 kilograms from Malaysia exported to China would be processed in the park. It was the first time that China and Malaysia realized the normal raw unclean bird nest trade since the two sides signed the protocol of exporting raw unclean bird nests to China in 2016.
The bird nest industry makes up a major part of the national-level cooperation projects promoted by the CAEXPO. At present, 15 processing enterprises have settled in the CMQIP, 11 of which have gained approval in processing imported raw unclean bird nests from the General Administration of Customs. A complete chain of cross-border bird nest industry has been formed between China and ASEAN countries. By August 2022, the park saw a total import volume of 360 million yuan in bird nests and a total output value of 150 million yuan. Products were sold to all parts of China online and offline.
According to Tan Bun Teet, Vice Chairman of Malaysia Kuantan Bird Nest Cooperatives, CAEXPO offered a great cooperation platform to ASEAN businessmen and China, and the CMQIP, incubated from the opportunity, provided mature conditions for bird nest processing in China. With such advantages, Malaysia’s costs for settling in China would decrease rapidly. With the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2022, competitive goods from ASEAN countries like bird nests would encounter new opportunities and see rapid development among other industries.
In the CMQIP bird nest processing and trading base, workers of China-Malaysia Jingu Bird Nest Company were busy at the processing plant. It has finished the processing of the 300-kg raw unclean bird nests imported from Malaysia in the late May of 2022. Since its establishment in 2019, the company has taken part in the CAEXPO every year. Through the platform, its revenue in bird nests reached 31.1671 million yuan in 2021.
As a major bridge for China and ASEAN countries to conduct economic and trade activities, CAEXPO provided an important platform for ChinaMalaysia cooperation in bird nests. In the development course of the bird nest industry, the world also sees the philosophy of respecting and treasuring each other in China and Malaysia.
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