Grand Andaman and UMEHL to harvest birds’ nests in Tanintharyi

Grand Andaman Islands Company has become Myanmar’s first private company to hold a licence to work alongside military-owned conglomerate Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) harvesting birds’ nests on a number of islands in Tanintharyi Region.

The company, which also owns a casino resort in the Andaman Sea, won three out of four lots in a tender issued by the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry to produce swiftlet birds’ nests on the Moscow Islands, the Yay Aye Islands, the Kasai Hla and the Kaunt Ngar Islands, and the Mali Islands.

Birds’ nests are harvested across Southeast Asia, partly for local consumption but mainly for export to China and Hong Kong, where they are considered a delicacy and believed to have healing powers. Made from the saliva of swiftlets, the nests are typically eaten as part of a soup.

U Tin Thein, director of the Tanintharyi Region forestry department, said UMEHL has been in the birds’ nest business for years.

An open tender system was launched in 2013 but UMEHL has been the sole winner for the past two years, and has sub-contracted a company called Padamyar Yaung Chi to harvest the nests, which can be dangerous work.

“[In this round] of the three companies bidding – UMEHL, Padamyar Yaung Chi and Grand Andaman Islands – UMEHL was granted one lot and Grand Andaman won the remaining three,” he said.

Last financial year, UMEHL won all four lots at a price of more than K620 million. This year, the value of total bids on the four lots reached K1.8 billion, he said.

“The tender was opened and the winners announced on February 9. The winning companies were required to deposit 25 percent of the total investment into state-owned Myanma Economic Bank the same day,” said U Win Naing, deputy director of the forestry department.

The first lot includes eight islands in Dawei district, the second includes 10 islands in Myeik district, the third is nine islands in Kawthaung district and the fourth is a group of five islands in Myeik.

Grand Andaman Islands is not just looking to harvest birds’ nests, but will also try to develop the islands into tourist destinations, said U Tin Thein.

“Two of the islands in each lot won by Grand Andaman will become forestry conservation areas, and they will not collect nests there, to prevent against extinction,” he said. Tender winners have no right to use the island’s natural resources apart from birds’ nests, he added.

Income from harvesting the nests will contribute to the regional government budget, which will go toward developing the region, said U Tin Thein. “When entering the birds’ nest business, the company must ensure it is working sustainably and conserving the resource for the long term,” he said.

The contracts will be signed over the next few days, and the companies will be able to collect nests until the first week of November this year.


Source: Myanmar Times

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