Gelatin, a special part of donkey hide is a treasure-trove in China. African countries of Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria have been exporting this special part of donkey hides to China.
This special part of donkey hide is valued in China. It is used in producing traditional blood tonic known as E’jiao, which is used in treating blood deficiencies such as bleeding and pale skin.
Aside from the medicinal benefit China uses donkey hides in producing anti-ageing creams and aphrodisiacs
But the news of Niger banning its export this week will bring about a shortfall in importation of donkey hides in China.
“If the export countries continue the animals will be decimated,” a government official has told BBC Africa
Last week Niger joined Burkina Faso who banned the exportation of donkey skins on similar ground in August despite its economic benefits to donkey sellers in the country.
China’s shrinking population of donkey has brought about a shortage of donkey skin special part, gelatin which is highly prized in China.
Due to China’s fast industrial growth, machinery has subbed donkey causing the population of donkey to drop sharply from 11 million in the 1990s to 6 million coupled with another 300,000 shortfall every year, government statistics say. China news agency, Xinhua puts the current population of donkey at about 1.8 million
About 5,000 tonnes of E’jiao is produced annually in China, according to figures from Shandong E’jiao Trade association.
In order to keep up with the production of premium E’jiao tonic 4 million donkey hides are needed annually. This is in sharp contrast with 1.8 population of donkey, thus leading to production of fake E'jiao Tonic
This led to China’s interest in importing donkey skins from Africa countries to cover up for the gap
The high demand in the exportation of donkey hides to China has been beneficial to livestock sellers in Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
The BBC’s Baro Arzika in Niamey, Niger’s capital says the trade in donkey hides has become profitable to livestock sellers who are abandoning other animals for the donkey trade.
A donkey now cost between 100 USD and 145 USD, when it used to cost about 34 USD. In Burkina Faso the price has risen from 4 USD to 50 USD
Nearly 65,000 skins were exported mostly to China in the first six months of the year.
Exportation of donkey skins rose from 1,000 in the first quarter of 2015 to more than 18,000 in the last quarter, the Burkinabe authorities told BBC Africa.
In Nigeria, the search for donkey hides took the Chinese to a donkey market known as Jeki in Ezzangbo, Ebonyi state in South East Nigeria.
Donkey hide is called Jeki in Ebonyi and the market is abysmally low until recently when the Chinese took interest in patronising livestock sellers in Ebonyi state.
Saminu Haladu a donkey seller in Maigatari International Cattle Market in Jigawa told Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper that over 5,000 donkeys are transported to South-Eastern states from the market every week.
Also, Emeka Emmanuel who is into donkey hide business told Daily trust that he has accrued huge profits from buying donkey worth of one million naira ( 3000 USD) and in turn selling the hides to the Chinese.
The silent business of donkey hides in Africa has helped some donkey sellers economically not just in Nigeria but in Burkina Faso and Niger,
But the age long practice of using donkey as a means of transportation has made countries like Burkina Faso and Niger to ban exportation of donkey saying it is “exploitative” and it’s threatening the population of donkey respectively.
Analysts however have suggested that these countries should cash in on the excessive demands of donkey from China—which is an available market.
In anticipation of exporting donkeys to China's Henan Province, South Africa, recently has taken a bold step by considering beginning a training programme for livestock farmers. China has also indicated interest in importing 5,000 donkeys from Namibia.