At a meeting recently called to order by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Ho Chi Minh City, business leaders in the niche market voiced their concern that more regulatory guidance is needed.
Mandatory and more precise statutes would ensure consistent and effective compliance with rules and regulations, the business leaders told Nguyen Duc Trong, deputy head of the Department of Livestock Production at MARD.
More clearly enunciated rules, they noted, are a crucial factor in creating a well-functioning sustainable industry.
They are also a key element in safeguarding health and safety, protecting the environment, securing stable government tax revenue and delivering other essential societal goals.
This is critically important, the leaders added, for laying the foundation for continued future economic growth of the swiftlet industry, which emerged around 2007 in southern Vietnam, and achieving the best possible outcomes over the long term.
The 2013 decree lacked teeth mandating compliance by businesses in the industry and more often than naught simply made optional recommendations that dealt with matters such as location, use of sounds to lure the birds, hygiene and disease control.
For instance, the 2013 legislation, they said, simply recommended in general that birds nest farms be located away from residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, instead of making this a clearly spelled out mandatory requirement.
The leaders also suggested that new legislation make it compulsory for those in the industry to comply with all local zoning plans and obtain appropriate approval from authorities on a basis consistent with any other business.
They proposed legislation making it mandatory that the sounds used to lure the birds should not exceed 70dBA between the hours of 6 am and 9pm, or 55dBA in the remaining hours.
Only a few disagreed with this provision, saying the condition should only apply to the overnight hours 9pm-6am as there is no need to regulate the sound during daytime.
In addition, the business leaders expressed concern that the development of hotels and resorts along the coast is destroying the swiftlet natural habitat along with the populations of insects upon which the birds feed, thereby undermining the industry.
The three largest concentrations of swiftlet farms are in Cham Island in Quang Nam Province, the Phuong Mai Peninsula in Binh Dịnh and the swift islands in Khanh Hoa Province.
All the areas are hard hit by new hospitality industry development, most notably new hotels and resorts, which is cutting into production, sales and earnings.
Current estimates put the number of birdhouses at 5,800 throughout the country as of the end of last year, for a total of 6.1 million birds producing nearly 50 tons of edible product each year.
This compares to the industry in Indonesia, which with 200,000 houses, is nearly 35 times larger producing 2,100 tons annually and Malaysia, at 60,000 houses, roughly 10 times larger at an annual output of 800 tons.
The business leaders implored MARD representatives to act to frame new regulations for management of sanitation of swiftlet farms and make zoning changes a priority to create more favourable conditions for the niche industry.