NEW DELHI: China is investing as much a $50-odd billion in Pakistan for CPEC, so Pakistan, which will do anything for its 'all-weather' buddy China, is ramping up donkey breeding for China.
Sources have told Pakistan's The Express Tribune that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government will soon begin a project to increase the donkey population in the province.
That's because gelatin made from a donkey's hide is an ingredient in much of Chinese medicine and is therefore highly valued. And with Niger and Burkina Faso, the top donkey suppliers for China banning the animal's export, the beast is in even higher demand.
The $1 billion project is called the 'Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa-China Sustainable Donkey Development Programme' and sources said it will meet "not only its investment cost but also generate a good amount of revenue." The project also hopes to attract Chinese investment in the province's agriculture sector under the umbrella of CPEC.
"The proposed project will help improve the socio-economic status of donkey-rearing communities by improving the health and production of local donkeys...New technologies will be introduced and work will be done on capacity building of donkey breeders and services they provide," said an official document about the donkey export plan.
The provincial government will also "develop linkages in order to improve prices of donkeys and enhance the income of breeders and traders," the document further said, according to the Tribune.
China's National Yearbook on Livestock Statistics showed that the donkey population fell to six million from11 million in the 1990s and was continuing to decline at the rate of 300,000 year. China was making do with imports from Niger and Burkina Faso, that is, until the two countries banned donkey exports.
Niger sold as many as 80,000 donkeys to China in the first nine months of 2016, compared with 27,000 in 2015. Last year, Burkina Faso slaughtered 45,000 donkeys in six months; its total donkey population was 1.4 million, CNN reported last year.
What that led to in both countries is a steep increase in the value of donkeys and therefore, a nice chunk of foreign currency - at first.
Soon, however, the local donkey populace dropped perilously and donkey breeding caused environmental and economic problems. That's when both Niger and Burkina Faso banned the animal's export.
Perhaps Pakistan will have better luck.