Producing ceramics, meals from donkey
Donkey is a common and ‘forbidden’ animal in some parts of the country. But in Ebonyi State, it has become precious, UCHENNA INYA reports
In the past, donkey meat was common. It was forbidden for people to consume it let alone the parts including the skin, blood, bones and other parts scrambled for as it is today.
Nobody ventured into donkey business in Ebonyi State. It was not largely consumed by the people; those who were eating the animal did so secretly to avoid being ridiculed by others. But today, it has become a lucrative business.
Donkey meat business has served as a source of revenue to the poor, rich and government.
Donkey has become a king of animals in Ebonyi State. It is openly consumed by people and also sold in hotels and restaurants where it is served to customers who eat it knowingly or unknowingly. Its parts including the skin, bone and blood, have become hot cake.
The faeces is hotly demanded by farmers who use it as organic fertiliser.
The parts are usually exported by Chinese and local manufacturers who use them to manufacture different goods. Ebonyi State has the largest donkey market in West Africa.
The market known as Nkwo Jakki, which came into existence in 1997, is located at Ezzamgbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state. It was a small market when it was established but it has become so large today apparently because of the lucrative nature of the donkey business.
A minimum of 20 trailerloads of donkeys are taken to the Ohaukwu depot on a daily basis from Maiduguri, Kastina and Kano as it has proved to be the highest source of revenue to the people of the state.
Chinese are always found in the donkey depot loading the skins in large quantity to their places where they convert them to raw materials for production of different goods.
The skin is used by the Chinese for many purposes including manufacturing of shoes, waist belts, wristwatches and handbags among others. Donkey’s bone is used to produce ceramics, including plates while the blood is used to produce fish and fowl meals.
A special part of the meat known as Gelatin is obtained from the skin of the donkey by soaking and stewing. It is also used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine called Ejiao.
Chairman of the donkey sellers, Abdullahi Oladipo Yinusa, told our correspondent that donkey business had provided job opportunities to numerous people including those selling water and grasses.
According to him, donkey business is the highest job creator in Ohaukwu Local Government Area in particular and the state in general.
Chinese agents, he said, were everywhere in and around Ohaukwu Local Government Area to buy donkey skin which is sold at the rate of N24,000 per unit. He disclosed that people throng the market from Port Harcourt and Owerri to buy donkey, describing the patronage as vibrant.
Abdullahi appealed to the state government to provide them with residential area where they could call their own. According to him, elsewhere where such depot exits, the operators of the market are provided with befitting residence since their business is a blessing to their host communities.
The chairman, however, commended government for providing them with adequate security in the market.
He said: “The market came to be on June 28, 1997. When we came down here, there was nothing like these houses; there were only thatched houses.
“Luckily, we are inside the depot because these donkeys come from Maiduguri, Kastina, Kano and other border towns in the North. “This market has been the greatest revenue-earner for the state and local government. It is the highest job creator for the state and local government.
“The challenge we have is that they have refused to provide for us a place that we can call our own as it is the case in other places where they have Hausa community.
The market here is our residence. Apart from that, we have been living peacefully with our host. “You can find out that we are a blessing to them. You can see the people selling grasses and water.
It is a source of revenue to them. This is because we do not have the means and access to these facilities. “It is a money spinner.
The skin, not only the meat, generates revenue for the state and local government. It is on a high demand now. I do not know what the Chinese use it for. “It is a daily market. The sales we make depend on the demand.
We have two major market days here which is Orie and Eke. Those days we sell highest because people come as far as from Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Imo State. If you look at these vehicles they come from far.”
A butcher, Paschal Ogwa, said donkey business had created jobs for the people in the area.
According to him, for each donkey killed, he is paid between N500 and N700 while he slaughters about 30 or more a day. He disclosed that over 200 youths are in the slaughter business and make handful sums each day as about 2,500 to 4,000 donkeys are killed each day.
According to him, each butcher kills between 30 and 50 donkeys per day, while some men and women make money by fetching water, grass and even firewood for the animals and are usually paid fatly and instantly. One of the dealers, Ebenyi Mathew, said the business had assisted him in big measures. He said: “I have used this business and got married.
Also, I was able to build my house with the proceeds from the business and it is still moving on fine. “We have high demand of the meat now than before.
Even in the consumption which was very low, people prefer it now to other types of meat because it is not costly. If you have like N200 or N300 you will buy enough meat that can serve you. But for others like cow and goat meat, you must have at least N500 before you can buy meat that can serve you.
“The skin is where we make our gains because some Chinese always come here to buy them off and even stay by the side waiting for buyers. “Even the skin is costlier than the meat. The skin is sold between N30,000 and N35,000 while the meat is sold between N20,000 and N25,000.’’
On the amount required to join the business, Mathew explained that one could use between N250,000 and N300,000. He said: “It is a business that if you start it, within three to six months, you will recover the amount you used to start it. You can see that the market is expanding unlike before and it is because the business is moving fine.’’
A pregnant woman, Mrs. Esther Umeh, a native of Ngbo Court in Ohaukwu Local Government Area who came from Lagos where she was living with her husband, said the business was still moving smoothly.
Umeh disclosed that she came from Lagos after getting the information that donkey business was very lucrative. She said: “The donkey business is good. Chinese have made it to be a moving business that one can enter and survive. Donkey meat is like bush meat and it has no disease.
Chinese came in and said the skin was very useful to them and started exporting it to their country. They said the skin was used to manufacture drugs and other things in their area.
“The demand for the skin is very high that we made good gains. Every day, donkeys in four trailers are slaughtered in this market, Nkwo Jakki. I have been in the business for two years. I joined when the Chinese started exporting the skin. My husband and I came down from Lagos to join the business because it is very lucrative and it is moving very fast.
“Donkey skin is costlier than its meat because it is hotly demanded by the Chinese.
When the Chinese started exporting it, it became very expensive. The skin was sold N60,000 per donkey that time but the price has crashed to N12,000. Despite this, the skin business is still moving very well.
The Chinese that usually come for the skin lodge in a hotel; they no longer come into the donkey market to buy off the skin.
“The Chinese now have contractors who are part of us and who arrange the skin and take to them at the airport from where they go to their country. “Before now, the Chinese used to hang around us for the donkey skin to be arranged for them but they now have contractors who they deal with directly. When the contractors take the skin to them, the Chinese will use kilo and measure the skin and buy it.
The contractors sell the skin to the Chinese at N3,000 per kilo. The contractors buy from us and take it to the Chinese. The price of jakki is not fixed. You can get the big one at N40,000 or N50,000. You also get the small size at N20,000, N15,000 and N10,000.
After preparing the meat, you will find it difficult to differentiate it from cow meat. “When you come here at 5a.m., you will see many buses lined up by buyers who buy in any quantity.
They come from Enugu, Anambra, Cross River and other states. They use it in restaurants; they normally mix it with cow meat and sell to their customers in the restaurants and hotels. I eat donkey meat and it is very sweet. It is diseasefree because veterinary doctors come here every Wednesday to immunize the donkeys against diseases.
Even, our governor used to come here to check the environment. “Every part of donkey is useful. Monkey bone is used to produce ceramic plates while the blood is used to prepare pig and fowl meals.
No part of the donkey is a waste. We usually prepare the bones for people who come from neighbouring Enugu and Anambra state to buy them. When they grind the bones, they will mix it with something and produce ceramic plates. It is only our chairman that sells the bones; no other person is allowed to sell it. He sells it and owns the money. You can take some bones to your home but if you take it in large quantity and you are caught, you will be in trouble.
“I used to kill 12 donkeys in a day but I am killing only two per day because of money. I am running short of money now and I can’t kill the number I used to kill in a day. In this business, you can make profit and you can also suffer losses especially now that they have destroyed the business.”
The Chairman, Organised Butchers Association in the market, Onwe Valentine, lamented that the business was no longer profitable as it used to be. He added that many people had joined the business which made the Chinese that used to buy the skins with big amount of money to reduce the skin price.
Valentine, however, acknowledged that despite the current challenges in the business, it has provided jobs to teeming youths, men and women. Onwe explained that Chinese no longer come to the market to buy the skin because of men of immigration who arrest them for illegal trading.
He said: “This business is good but that was then. The reason is that things are no longer the way it used to be, women are running at a loss and the state government now has eyes on the business. Government has raised the tax they are collecting from us and it is making women to run at a loss. Before we were paying N150 per donkey but now it is N400.
This is different from other revenues government collect from us. “The skin was hot cake before now. There was a time the skin was sold between N52,000 and N57,000 per donkey but now it is between N8,000 and N14,000. Women were making gains the time it was sold N52,000 and they were happy in the business. The bone from the donkey is used to produce plates and ceramics while the blood is used to prepare chicken and fish feeds.
Everything about donkey is very useful. We normally burn the bone, bag it and sell to people who use it to produce the ceram-ic plates. It is sold by kilogram between N25 and N30. After burning and bagging the bones, I move them to Enugu. There is no gain in the bone business but we do it because it is needed by the people who want it.”
The Secretary of the association, Prince Amadi Okechukwu, told our correspondent that multiple taxation by the government had negative effects on the business. He explained that the market had no good facilities and called on the government to provide necessary facilities in the market since government was generating money as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from the market. Okechukwu said the business was no longer lucrative as it used to be. He said: “This market is an international market. People from far and near come here for business.
This market has created jobs for our youths, women and aged. Thousands of people of this state work here as you can see. This market offers money to government. We have two sections in this market.
In my own section we have over 40 butchers. Meat sellers are over 200 while those that watch the meat intestines are over 50. Those who wash the intestine charge between N20 and N25 per donkey skin. Each month, government makes at least N3 million as IGR and we don’t feel any government impact in the market. All the facilities we have here were installed by us with our money.
If government is taking from us here, it should provide facilities for us because the one we constructed by ourselves are not enough. We are not feeling any government impact in this market.
They should help us to put this place in order because they are generating income from here. “Government collects N400 per donkey. The government also collects N200 per skin while the Ministry of Environment collects N100 per donkey. There are other revenues government collects here; we are paying heavy tax here and it is affecting the business..
“People come from near and far to buy donkey meat, skin, bones, blood and other parts which they use for different purposes. Everything about donkey is business. The skin is actually depreciating; it was sold N60,000 before but now it is sold between N15,000 and N20,000. We sell the blood meal in kilograms. Each kilogram costs between N25 and N30. “The demand for the donkey skin is actually no longer high as it used to be.
The cause is a result of dollar rise; when dollar goes up, the price will go up. But when dollar depreciates, the business will come down. Multiple taxation has sent several people away from the business.”
When contacted, the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area, Clement Odah, said the position of government on the donkey market remained positive. Odah said the donkey market had become serious and important market.
He added: “The position of government in respect of the donkey market is positive because we support the market in the aspect of local market economy. Before now, Ohaukwu has been popular for industrial setting. The donkey market in Ezzamgbo is the regional headquarters for donkey market in the whole of the South-East.
Also, other states in the South-South including the North make their supplies from the Ezzamgbo donkey market. The demand for the meat has increased in the sense that Chinese have been coming into the market to buy the skin.
The donkey market is a serious business and every part of the animal is useful, from the headto- toe. “Before now, it was just the edible part, that is the flesh of the donkey that was so important but now with the discovery by Chinese, the skin has become more important than the flesh and it has increased the demand for donkey.”
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