China will cut import duties on donkey hide as domestic supplies dwindle and Chinese demand for the product soars. The State Council, China’s cabinet, said the tax would be cut from 5 per cent to 2 per cent from January 1, state-run news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday. China’s huge appetite for donkey hide and meat is a multibillion US dollar business and the demand has raised concerns in countries where many of the animals used for transport and farm work have reportedly been slaughtered or stolen and shipped to China. Gelatin from donkey hide, called ejiao , is used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve skin quality. Donkey meat is also a delicacy in some parts of the country. Nigerians prize their hardworking donkeys, but China prizes their skins for medicine, sending prices soaring Sales of ejiao in China rose from 6.4 billion yuan in 2008 to 342.2 billion yuan in 2016, according to industry estimates. At the same time, the country’s donkey population has fallen dramatically as farmers have replaced the animals with machinery. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China had nearly 10 million donkeys in 1996 – and nearly half that number by 2015. A donkey hide now fetches about 3,000 yuan (US$460), about a third of the price of a carcass and up from 200 yuan in 2000, according to Xinhua. Demand for traditional Chinese medicine fuelling rising slaughter of donkeys in Africa Most of the world’s 44 million or so donkeys are in Asia, North Africa, South America and some European countries. The eastern Chinese province of Shandong is a major province for ejiao production, importing hides from Peru, Mexico and Egypt. Meng Xianqing, senior executive at an ejiao manufacturing plant in Donge county, Shandong province, said the lower tariff was good news for the ejiao business. “To others it is just a few percentage points, but to us it is gold,” the report quoted Meng as saying.