Enthusiasm for Ejiao can lead to opportunities for donkey-skin exporting countries

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/17 22:08:39

Millions of donkeys are killed every year around the world to satisfy demand from China, where their skins are used to make traditional medicine, sparking concerns over a decline in the global donkey population.

Chinese companies should shoulder the responsibility of seeking solutions to this issue to promote the sustainable development of the industry.

Healthcare spending in China has been increasing in recent years as living standards rise, with donkey-hide gelatin - better known as Ejiao in Chinese - in the spotlight.

About 5,000 tons of Ejiao are required annually to satisfy domestic and foreign demand, which means the breeding stock of live donkeys needs to stand at 11 million to ensure a supply-demand balance in the market.

However, the number is roughly 5 million in China. The gap has forced Chinese Ejiao makers to import a large number of donkey skins, resulting in the over-hunting of donkeys in some places, especially Africa. The killings have reportedly led some local authorities to suspend licenses in the donkey-skin trade.

As the major importer of donkey skins, China should assume more responsibility to find solutions to these problems.

First, Chinese companies must extract maximum value from each donkey, which means more money should be invested in research and development to identify ways this can be done. Further, small workshops should be discouraged from engaging in donkey-skin processing due to their low efficiency and high production costs. Second, it might benefit the Ejiao industry to invest in the world's major donkey-skin exporting countries, where it could set up livestock breeding bases and facilities to carry out initial processing. This strategy could lead to a boom in business for these countries arising from the enthusiasm for Ejiao in China, if they keep an open mind toward donkey-skin exports.

In recent years, some companies in New Zealand focused on industries relating to pilose antler, a rare animal-sourced product that can be used as a medicinal ingredient that's popular among people in East Asia. Now, New Zealand has become an important exporter of pilose antler, and some local farmers have reportedly said that breeding deer is more profitable than breeding cows.

There's no reason why China's demand for donkey skin can't bring a new momentum to economic growth and job creation in exporting countries.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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