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Donkey Hide, Meat as new Pak-China trade avenue

By Yasir Habib Khan   | Gwadar Pro Sep 3, 2021

New merchandize line “Donkey Hide and Meat” is another trade avenue that has a potential to open up groundbreaking business partnership and diverse import-export relations between China and Pakistan.  

It is fortunate that to unlock this new commerce trend, Pakistan has rolled out donkey farming in the backdrop of robust demand for donkey skin and meat in many parts of China. Initially donkey farming is being carried out on the government level. Later private sector including local and foreign enterprises preferably Chinese entrepreneurs might be engaged to bolster donkey agri-buisness.   

Donkey-hide gelatine (DHG), a well-known animal-derived traditional Chinese medicine material called Colla corii asini (known in Chinese as "E'jiao") is made by boiling donkey skin. Since “E’Jiao” has patent and miraculous health impacts in connection with improving body’s calcium balance and curing aging, infertility, impotency, dementia, respiratory problems and other ailments, Chinese people have insatiable appetite for it. Observing its remedy capacity, high price does not discourage people to buy it. According to National E’jiao Association, the consumption of Donkey-hide gelatine has doubled since 2010.  

Donkey meat consumption is also posting an upward trend as donkey burger, a rising signature eatable in many provinces like Hebei, is fast becoming new food sensation in China. According to some media reports, Zhang Haitao, the official Hebei government-sanctioned representative of the donkey burger and founder of the Kung Fu Donkey restaurant chain, claims that the demand is shooting up faster than supply. He even hints that trend may go global. 

"When I was the president of Hejian Donkey Burger Association, the market value of the donkey burger business was about RMB 8 billion per year," he said. That's around $1.1 billion. "But if the donkey meat market can improve, the industry's market value could be at least RMB 100 billion in the future," he added. “As donkey burger can be stored for several days before it gets sour,” over time, according to Zhang, it can spread to other nearby provinces and cities. 

Given the conducive situation to tap Chinese “Donkey hide and meat” market, Punjab is the first among other provinces that has formally started donkey farming at Bahadurnagar in district Okara, around 110 km away from Lahore, provincial capital of Punjab.  

Punjab Additional Secretary Planning (Livestock Department) Ch. Muhammad Khalid told Gwadar Pro that donkey farming as a successful venture is up and running. Unveiled by former secretary Nasim Saddiq, initiative has been making its strides.  

“Donkey farming is in rhythm and blooming. Chinese are in contact as they have keen interest in proliferation of donkey farming. Donkey’s export to China might be lucrative and may help Pakistan to expand its export-basket,” said by Dr Maqsood, Director of Bahadurnagar Donkey Farm in Okara, Punjab. Those who bring their males for mating at our farms, he said, are being rewarded by plenty of government incentives. “So far, we have built 20 farms where different races of donkey are being raised,” he added.     

Why Pakistan & China are beneficiaries of Donkey Farming?  

China's domestic donkey population falls short of meeting the demand of the Chinese middle class. Only 30 years ago, China had 11 million donkeys, the largest herd in the world, but the number has dwindled to between 3 million and 5 million, despite intensive breeding programs. Even this number is further declining. According to the Chinese government’s official data, the number of donkeys being kept as livestock shrank almost 50% over the past 10 years to 2.53 million in 2018. Among others, partly reason is that mass donkey breeding is very difficult. As per media report, drop was probably partly due to the growing industrialization of transportation and agriculture. Also, raising donkeys is expensive and time-consuming. 

So it comes as no surprise that Pakistan, with high-rate of donkey populations and strong economic ties with China, gains eligibility to become one of the main sources of donkey-hide gelatin for E’jiao manufacturers as well as for donkey meat especially donkey burger.  

According to Pakistan Economic Survey 2020-21, donkey population in Pakistan swelled to 100,000 only in one year. Survey report revealed that the total number of donkeys standing at 5.5 million has now reached 5.6 million. The massive donkey growth is an ideal situation for Pakistan to reap need of Chinese market.   

Challenges  

Nevertheless, the facts that Pakistan and China have signed many MoUs and agreements for building up new trade avenues, basic modalities and frameworks to initiate trade on “donkey hide and meat” are yet to be hashed out.  

Apart from this, there is a hindrance on the export of donkey skin in Pakistan. It is high time for PTI government, seems to be very active in promoting exports, to lift the ban on the export of donkey skin (hide).    

It is recalled that on 3rd September 2015, a meeting chaired by then Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar approved a ban on the export of donkey skins due to the alarming and unsustainable rise in exports of 100,000 skins (a 142% increase) in just 12 months in 2015.   

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