Cleopatra used to bathe in it to preserve her legendary beauty, and now more than 2000 years later donkey milk is back in fashion not just as a beauty product but as a super food as well, already fetching Rs 700 for 100 ml. Select entrepreneurs across the country, from Kochi to Pune to Delhi-NCR, have woken up to the ancient wisdom of donkey milk's nutraceutical & therapeutic properties that include anti-ageing and antioxidant qualities to roll out personal care products such as fairness creams, soaps and shampoos besides liquid donkey milk.
"There is so much interest and demand, now that consumers are going back to the traditional methods of what their ancestors did to cure them of diseases," said Aby Baby, founder of Dolphin IBA that sells premium beauty products made of donkey milk. "Donkey milk has superior qualities. It is very good for infants, especially those with gastric problems, and for people suffering with skin allergies."
Donkey's milk is similar to a human mother's milk, and rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids, they said. It has less fat than cow milk. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, donkey milk has "particular nutritional benefits". It's seen as an alternative for infants affected by cow milk protein allergies. It is in the eligible milk list of many countries including USA, but not yet in India. Here it is largely being used in the cosmetics industry and in a small way in the liquid milk category.
The government is working to formalise donkey milk business in the country, a senior agriculture ministry official said. "We have suggested Indian Council of Agricultural Research to explore possibilities of promoting donkey milk in India," said Tarun Shridhar, secretary at the animal husbandry department. "It has challenges such as low milk yield and limited shelf life besides developing taste and market for this new dairy product."
Once Indian regulators approve it, donkey milk is likely to see a huge growth in the country, industry insiders said.
Already those who have got into rearing and milking donkeys are making money. 'Recipient of Indian Agricultural Research Institute's innovative farmer award 2019, Baby sells donkey milk-based skin cream for psoriatic arthritis at Rs 4,840 for an 88-gram pack, a firmness cream widely used for eczema at Rs 6,136, and a 200-milli shower gel shampoo at Rs 2,400.
He claims steady growth of clients and markets since he started the business in 2017. Dolphin IBA reported turnover of Rs 1.15 crore in 2018-19, up 70% from the previous year, and expects similar growth trajectory in the coming years, Baby said.
He soon plans to roll out new products such as designed medicinal foods for women suffering from hormonal disorder polycystic ovarian syndrome, people with neurobehavioral condition like autism, and for post-surgery patients. 'Baby has 27 donkeys, including some Poitou donkeys from France, in his twoacre farm at Ramamangalam near Kochi.
Pooja Kaul, who sells soaps and other beauty products based on donkey milk under Organiko brand, source milk from construction workers and tribal communities who rear donkeys in Ghaziabad, Barmer in Punjab and Solapur in Maharashtra. '"It been an educative experience to work with brick kiln workers, construction site workers and herdsmen," said Kaul who started working with donkey farmers when she was a student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
"It started as a project to increase income of those who rear donkeys," she said. "And from Rs 500 a litre they are now getting Rs 3,000 a litre for the donkey milk. It gives me the strength and confidence to expand my operations."
Kaul works with 25 donkey owners who have over 100 donkeys and targets to expand operation to 100 farms this year. 'She said her company has reached breakeven and is now open to funding of over Rs 50 lakh by angel investors. She plans to soon roll out donkey milk powder under Organiko brand.
In Pune, Ramesh Jadhav is a secondgeneration farmer who sells donkey milk for Rs 700 for 100 ml. His clients are largely infants and people suffering from cough, stomach infection and skin infection.
"I take my donkeys to the customers home as shelf life of the milk is only for few hours (8-10 hours)," he said. "My customers tell me it has very low fat content and that I should expand... but I don't have the expertise." Donkey milk can be a good source of income for people in the unorganised sector, said Jadhav who said his 12 donkeys help him earn Rs 60,000-70,000 a month.
"I sometime feel that our milk should be brought by Amul and packaged and sold," he said.
Scientists agree donkey milk-based cosmetics and health mixtures can be an attractive agribusiness for equine framers in India.
"This new possibility of increasing the income of the equine owners is very widespread among general public," said Anuradha Bhardwaj, senior scientist, animal biotechnology, at ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines, HIsar.
"In cosmetics, donkey's milk is used for cleaning and hydrating action combined with an antioxidant action that prevents aging," she said, adding that fat content in donkey milk nourishes and softens the skin. 'The milk is rich in vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids and contains anti-ageing, anti-oxidant and regenerating compounds, which are described as naturally active in skin hydration and skin ageing prevention, Bhardwaj said. 'Many ayurvedic doctors also prescribe it to treat skin
diseases like eczema and psoriasis.
Source: The Economic Times