The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has proposed a program to foster the breeding and export of donkeys to China in an effort to utilise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The KP-China Sustainable Donkey Development Program proposes to 'develop and enhance' the donkey population for export to China, according to the programme's website.

Donkey hides are used for manufacturing 'high-value medicines' in China.

With an initial investment of approximately Rs1 billion, the aim of the project is to cultivate a livelihood for the local breeders and create a proper production channel which can ensure a regular and uninterrupted supply of donkeys to China, according to a webpage on the KP-CPEC website.

The suggested plan seeks investment from any state-owned, state-supported and private entity, while the KP government will provide all legal and technical assistance to investors.

A multitude of concerns

In 2015, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, had placed a temporary ban on the export of donkey hides, fearing the extinction of the animal or possible consumption of its meat.

Donkey hides and byproducts are a lucrative business in China where they are used for anti-wrinkle creams that might also be making its way into the Pakistani market, officials had feared.

After detailed discussions, the Economic Coordination Committee had decided to ban the export of donkey hides till regulatory mechanisms were put in place by the provinces for proper disposal of animal carcasses.

Reportedly donkey hides fetch anywhere from Rs18,000-Rs,20,000 per piece, especially on export to China.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Commerce had revealed that more than 141,000 donkey hides had been exported in a period of four years, spanning the years of 2011-2015.

In 2011, donkey hide exports stood at approximately 10,000 units, however, by 2015 the figure had ballooned to more than 97,200. Most of these exports were to China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

By 2015, revenue from donkey hides had tripled to Rs135 million as compared to Rs44mn a year prior.