It has become global headlines
these days that how some African countries have stopped donkey export to China
altogether while some others have put stiff regulations on it.
Do you know the donkey population
of India? I am sure that apart from few concerned experts, no one would be
aware of it (and rightly). According to India’s livestock census of 2014, the
total donkey population in India was 3.2 million in 2012.
But why would I bother to know
about it? What else but the natural human curiosity!
Many countries, especially
African, are banning donkey export to China. (Now the global donkey
import-export business, China and other main markets for it and its state of affairs
in India can make for a separate innovative research topic.)
But why are they doing so?
Ejiao is a blood tonic made from
donkey-hide gelatin obtained from the animal’s skin. It is a popular
traditional medicine in China which is quite popular, especially among women,
and is used for anaemia, cough, insomnia, wound, boils and eruptions. It is
also used in face and anti-ageing creams. China produces almost 5,000 tonnes of
ejiao annually that itself is indicator of its immense popularity in the
But ejiao’s increasing demand coupled
with China’s rapid industrialization has caused a rapid decline in China’s
donkey population. According to reports, China had around 110 million donkeys
in 1990s which has drastically come down to almost half, at 60 million, and is
seeing a consistent decline of 3,00,000 donkeys every year. Industrialization
has proved a double-edged sword for donkey population in China. It increased
disposable income of people and introduced machines that mechanized the ejiao
making process thereby causing huge spurt in demand (with the supply to meet
it.) Even the donkeys who were otherwise used for farming and carrying loads,
they also became priced possessions of the booming ejiao industry.
Exploitation increased so much so
that donkey’s population rapidly came down and to meet the never satiated
domestic demand, China had to import donkey. And China looked to the African
markets for it where it has invested heavily.
All went well initially. The
Chinese demand skyrocketed donkey prices in the African markets. Many
black-markets cropped up. Legal and
illegal export of donkeys to China increased manifold. As it had happened in
China, people in these countries also started using monkeys exclusively for
export, removing them from traditional farming and load carrying work.
But, as had happened in China,
the same thing is happening in these African countries as well. Due to an ever increasing
demand from China and due to the lucre of money involved, mindless donkey
exports from the African countries increased to the extent that the continent is
now witnessing a rapid decline in its donkey population and many countries are
now worried that if left unchecked, the trend may devastate the whole breed of the
So countries like Niger and
Burkina Faso have banned donkey export totally while countries like Kenya and South
Africa have started putting tough measures to regulate this cattle trade and it
is expected that more countries will follow soon.
These developments have initiated
a national debate on ejiao in China. Experts and analysts are burning the
midnight oil debating and strategizing on how to increase domestic population
of donkeys in China including encouraging and incentivizing people to develop donkey
And if the pressure of demand is
so high, there would obviously be fake and counterfeit products in the market.
The condition has become so chronic that many ejiao manufacturing outfits are
issuing DNA certificates with their products proclaiming authenticity of their
ejiao. A natural corollary to this is the rampant theft of donkeys which has
forced many farms to implant identification chips in their donkeys.
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