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Sudan should step up gum Arabic production: economist

April 19 - 2015 KHARTOUM
A farmer in En Nahud, West Kordofan, carries gum Arabic collected from the acacia Senegal tree (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters)
A farmer in En Nahud, West Kordofan, carries gum Arabic collected from the acacia Senegal tree (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters)

Sudan should step up its gum Arabic production, to meet the growing demand in the world.

An increased export may not only lead to improved relations with the USA, but will boost the Sudanese economy significantly, according to Dr. El Sheikh El Mak, economist, and former policy-maker at the Ministry of Finance and National Economy.

In an interview published by Sudan News Agency (Suna) today, El Mak points to the diminished production of gum Arabic in West African countries, owing to climate change and diseases.

He stressed the importance to bridge the economic crisis in the country, and increase the production by encouraging small-scale farmers to replace their traditional means of the gum production process, mainly done manually, by modern means, as well as enhance the marketing of the product.

Soft drinks

Gum Arabic is an emulsifier and a stabiliser made from the branches of the acacia Senegal tree. Apart from for instance shoe polish and ink, the food industry uses the stabiliser in chocolate and sweets, and, most importantly, in soft drinks, as it binds the sugar to the drink.

Sudan, Chad, and Nigeria produce 95 percent of gum Arabic exported to the world market. Sudan is the globe’s foremost producer at an estimated 88,000 tons per year.

According to the Sudanese Corporation for Forestry, the export of gum Arabic contributes to about 15 percent of the country's national income.

The gum Arabic belt covers about one fifth of the country. North Kordofan and North Darfur are the largest producers, followed by the states of Blue Nile, White Nile, and El Gedaref.

Sudanese gum Arabic was the only exemption when the USA imposed trade sanctions, for supporting terrorism, against Sudan in 1997. The USA said that such a ban would have hurt the country's food industry.

However, with gum Arabic in short supply, food and beverage manufacturers have since then turned to lower-cost substitutes. 

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