A store selling edible bird's nests in Binh Tay Market in District 6. (Photo: SGGP)

Chaos in the price of edible bird’s nests

In Khanh Hoa Province, edible bird's nest has been famous for a long time and built into a national brand.

Here, there are two popular types of swiftlets, farmed and natural swiftlets, with prices ranging from VND30 million-VND40 million per kilogram for farmed swiftlets, and more than VND100 million per kilogram for natural ones.

The production of natural swiftlets is not much and expensive, so the livelihood of farming swiftlets has sprung up like mushrooms all over the provinces.

The points of sale of edible bird’s nest are countless. In Nha Trang City of Khanh Hoa Province alone, there are hundreds of points of sale of edible bird’s nests.

During the peak before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, when Chinese tourists still flocked to the province, prompting the appearance of several edible bird’s nest outlets.

Many enterprises had built outlets with an area of thousands of square meters to serve Chinese visitors only. At present, these points of sale have almost disappeared.

Following the instructions on social networks, we were introduced to a store specializing in natural red edible bird’s nest products - the type of nest with high nutritional value - right in Nha Trang City, with the price of VND11.25 million per 100 grams.

The seller guaranteed that the products were real, and the price was competitive. However, when comparing the above price with the selling prices from some reputable enterprises in Khanh Hoa, it is easy to notice that this price is only half.

The selling price of quality red edible bird’s nests in the market right in Khanh Hoa is up to VND24 million per 100 grams.

Mr. Nguyen Hung Anh, living in District 12 in Ho Chi Minh City, urgently recounted that because he trusted advertisements on social networks, he bought 50 grams of Khanh Hoa red edible bird’s nests for VND10 million.

However, when he soaked red edible bird’s nests in cold water, he saw that the nests swelled loosely and were much bigger and their color faded from dark to light.

Suspected that he had bought fake edible bird’s nests, he called the seller, but no one answered. Later, he found that the seller’s account on Facebook had been locked.

In HCMC, at retail stores in Provincial Highway 5 in District 8 and Duong Thi Muoi Street in District 12, the prices of edible bird’s nest range from VND1.95 million to VND2.3 million per 100 grams of Phu Yen, Can Gio, and Khanh Hoa edible bird’s nest crumbs.

In Binh Tay Market in District 6, edible bird’s nests of all kinds are also sold at prices ranging from VND1.4 million to VND1.9 million per 100 grams for crumbs, from VND3.5 million to VND5 million per 100 grams for regular nests, and from VND10 million per 100 grams upwards for high-grade nests, depending on the type.

At the time we visited the market, many small traders laid bird’s nests in front of them to pick out feathers and clean the dried nests, then put them in plastic bags.

However, these nests mostly have no labels or brands. Some small traders showed discomfort and were highly alert to people who took photos while shopping.

Unclear quality

We went to seek the answer to why edible bird's nest has too many prices, and whether it is possible to verify the quality to avoid spending money on fake products? Mr. Phan Quoc Tien, who has been raising swiftlets for more than 10 years and currently owns three large swiftlet houses in Nha Trang City, told us that swiftlet farming is not only in Khanh Hoa Province, but many neighboring provinces have also massively built swiftlet houses.

Quick statistics by some specialized agencies, currently the South Central Coast and the Central Highlands regions have about 3,500 swiftlet houses. Because farmed swiftlets are numerous, the prices of farmed swiftlets are also much cheaper than 5-10 years ago, but the prices hardly decline to only VND1 million-VND2 million per 100 grams.

Edible bird's nests displayed at a store in Binh Tay Market. (Photo: SGGP)

The Director of an enterprise specializing in raising and trading edible bird’s nests in Can Gio District pointed out that, raw bird’s nests which include feathers, dirt, and wood, had a price of about VND3 million per 100 grams.

Therefore, bird’s nest crumbs and refined bird’s nests, which are sold at only VND1 million-VND2 million per 100 grams in the market, are probably counterfeit goods.

To clarify this information, we bought two types of dark bird’s nest crumbs whose price was VND1.6 million per 100 grams and bright-colored bird’s nests whose price was VND1.9 million per 100 grams at Binh Tay Market. Strangely, both types of bird’s nests do not smell like swiftlet nests.

After soaking in cold water for about 5 minutes, the nests swell and smell like sterculia foetida gum and agar, totally different from edible bird’s nests bought from reputable brands.

Many businesses revealed that the prices of edible bird’s nests imported from Malaysia and Indonesia into Vietnam are only half or one-third of those of domestic ones.

Previously, the Vietnam Farms and Agricultural Enterprises Association took random samples of some types of red edible bird’s nests sold in the market for testing and detected high levels of nitrates, which potentially cause poisoning to long-term users of those products.

Ms. Dang Thi Anh Tuyet, Production Director of Phu Hong Thanh Company with the Hong Tuyet Linh's bird's nest brand, analyzed further that the rate of loss after preliminary processing per kilogram of raw bird's nest ranges from 30 percent to 40 percent. Hence, the retail prices of edible bird’s nests could not be lower than VND5 million-VND6 million per 100 grams.

Thus, consumers actually get lost in the maze when buying edible bird's nest, while Vietnamese edible bird's nest is highly appreciated for its quality in the international market.

This issue needs to be resolved soon so that Vietnamese people will have the opportunity to use and consume domestic edible bird’s nests with ensured quality and food safety.


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