Bird's Nest

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GLOBALISATION AND BIRD'S NEST SOUP
David Jordan
This is an amended version of an article first published in International Development Planning Review, Volume 26, Number 1, Liverpool University Press, 2004

Summary Almost un-noticed by outsiders, an extraordinary industry has emerged in Indonesia to meet a specialised demand from the nouveau riche of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC). This industry produces the prime ingredient of the famous bird’s nest soup, also used in traditional Chinese medicines and cosmetics. It is an urban industry, using substantial specially designed buildings, that has transformed a number of Indonesian towns. So far there has been little serious research into this phenomenon. The Indonesian government statistical agency (Badan Pusat Statistik) confesses that the industry output, though considerable, is not captured by its GDP estimates. Enquiries are hampered by the secretive behaviour of the practitioners, who jealously guard their trade secrets. The author is an economist/planner who first observed the phenomenon when conducting fieldwork for an urban development project in North Sumatera. He is currently preparing a research project on the subject to be carried out in association with Badan Pusat Statistik.

The nests of bird’s nest soup are produced by the genus aerodramus (formerly collocallia), a type of swift, known in the Malay and Indonesian languages as walet. The essential ingredient is the saliva of the bird, almost pure in the nests of the white-nest walet (aerodramus fuciphagus) but heavily mixed with feathers and other material in those of the black-nest walet (aerodramus maxima), which consequently command lower prices.
Figure 1 - Freshly Harvested Nests

The…...

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