A plan to export edible bird’s nest products to China, which was expected to be formalised by the end of this year, could be delayed due to complications with export procedures and requirements, said a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The ministry’s General Directorate of Agriculture director-general Ngin Chhay told The Post on Thursday that plans to export the products to China will not be met this year as the documents required by the Chinese authorities are complex and require further research.

The documents, which the ministry sent to the private sector, have not been properly completed, he said, adding that a task force is currently working to expedite the process as China is the world’s largest edible bird’s nest market.

Cambodia has just four agricultural products that are officially allowed to ship to China – corn, cassava, rice and yellow bananas – while it continues to negotiate the export of other products such as edible bird’s nests, cashew nuts, pepper, longan and fragrant coconuts.

Cambodia Bird’s Nest Federation president Nang Sothy, said the Kingdom will likely be unable to export edible bird’s nest products to China this year as the conditions set by Chinese authorities are very strict and complex. Even if the documents were to be completed, there remains a lot of work to do.

On behalf of the association, he said he would like to see Cambodian edible bird’s nest products officially exported to China, noting acknowledging the existence of informal exports.

“Formal exports to the Chinese market will boost farmers’ and cultivators’ confidence and the quality [of their products] and help stabilise prices,” he said.

Sothy said the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the Kingdom’s edible bird’s nest market. “The virus has reduced sales by almost 50 per cent and prices have dropped by 15 per cent.”

He said an un-cleaned edible bird’s nest is currently worth $650 per kg while cleaned ones cost between $1,500 and $3,000 depending on the quality. Between 800kg and 1,500kg of edible bird’s nest can be harvested in Cambodia, of which about 30 per cent is for domestic consumption.

Edible bird’s nest is made from the dried saliva of Southeast Asia’s white-nest swiftlet. Traditionally, the processed swiftlet nest is double boiled with rock sugar to make a delicacy known as “bird’s nest soup”, which is rich in nutrients and has the purported health benefits of boosting a person’s immune system and sex drive.

In 2016, the global market for edible bird’s nest was estimated at $5 billion per year, said Federation of Malaysian Bird’s Nest Merchants Association president Tok Teng Sai, as reported by Bloomberg. China was the largest market, while Indonesia and Malaysia were the world’s leading suppliers.

The Cambodia Bird’s Nest Federation said the Kingdom’s bird’s nest supply is valued at $50-$100 million per year.