Colombo: A Chinese national was arrested by Sri Lankan customs authorities for attempting to smuggle edible birds' nests with a street value of nearly Rs two million, hours before Chinese president's visit here.
The 48-year-old Chinese man was arrested at the departure lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport with edible bird's nests worth Rs 1.9 million, Sri Lanka Customs officials said.
The birds' nests, a rare delicacy in China, were concealed in 12 tea tins, weighing 4.75 kilograms, Colombo Page reported.
The man was attempting to board a SriLankan Airlines flight to Guangzhou in southern China hours before the Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival at the airport for a state visit, the officials said.
A probe is underway while the suspect is currently being interrogated, they said.
Edible bird's nests are bird nests that are prepared and eaten by humans, particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity and exquisite flavour.
Bird's nests are among the most expensive animal products consumed by humans, with an average nest selling for up to USD 2,500 per kilogramme. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as bird's nest soup.
The bird's nests are supposedly rich in nutrients, which are traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion, raising libido, alleviating asthma and an overall benefit to the immune system.
In addition to its use in soup, edible birds nest can be cooked with rice to produce bird's nest congee or bird's nest boiled rice, or it can be added to egg tarts and other desserts.