Agri Business

No donkey business at the time of pandemic

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on February 10, 2021

With machines doing most of the lifting at construction sites, this beast of burden has few takers now; however, donkey milk is much in demand

Every year, the annual donkey market in Maharashtra’s pilgrimage town of Jejuri witnesses a turnover of over ₹2-5 crore. The average price of the beast of burden ranges between ₹10,000 and ₹25,000. And there’s a prize of ₹55,000 for the ‘Best donkey’ too. However, this year, action in the market has been lacklustre.

However, last year, not just the Jejuri donkey market, many others villages too, in the State that organise donkey markets during annual fairs, witnessed lukewarm business.

People from denotified and nomadic tribes from various States come to Maharashtra to buy and sell donkeys that are used to carry loads in brick kilns and construction works.

“Not just the donkey trade, but our livelihood too is in danger. The annual markets are an opportunity to buy and sell donkeys. There are many among us who breed donkeys for markets; we have faced heavy losses,” says Anil Pawar of Satara who has eight donkeys.

“I am in the traditional business of donkey rearing. My animals carry stones, mud and other construction material in rural areas. But nowadays people are using vehicles and I hardly get any work. Coronavirus has completely destroyed us,” adds Anil. He is not sure how long it will take for the donkey business to return to normalcy.

In many tribes, the wealth of a family is gauged on the basis of the number of donkeys the family possesses, says scribe Mohan Patil, who has studied the donkey trade in the State. He says the economy of the nomadic tribes, including Vaidu, Beldar, Kaikadi, Madari, Farudi and Ghisadi, among others, in Maharashtra, revolves around donkeys and the donkey market.

Donkey milk business

As demand wanes for the traditional job of carrying bricks, mud, and stones, some tribes are trying to focus on the donkey milk business. They call it the “wonder milk” that can cure ailments. Customers line up for donkey milk in rural and urban parts of the State. The tribes in Satara recently organised a protest march at the district collectorate demanding that the government pay attention to their demands and chalk out business opportunities so that they and their donkeys survive.

Eminent activist Laxman Mane who has worked with the tribes in Maharashtra, however, says that the tribes need to come out of the traditional “donkey business” and educate themselves to earn a livelihood with dignity.

“We have launched various movements in the past asking communities to get rid of donkeys. We have insisted on the closure of the donkey markets. When the world is moving forward, we cannot continue to live in the past,” says Mane.

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Published on February 10, 2021
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