Sudan hopes that rising demand for gum arabic from new markets in the Far East, Japan, the Gulf, China, America and Europe will help to soften an economic crisis triggered by the loss of 75% of its oil production when South Sudan seceded in 2011.
Gum arabic is a natural and edible gum tapped from acacia trees for use as an emulsifier to prevent sugar from crystallising in carbonated soft drinks; as a thickener in confectionery; and as a binder for drugs, cosmetics and postage stamps.
Sudan earned $81.8m from exporting 45,633t of gum arabic in 2011, up from $23.8m on 18,202t in 2010, according to the latest central bank data. Subsequent price and volume increases suggest it might earn over $200m from 2012’s exports.
Gum arabic is produced in Sudan’s savannah belt, which stretches from the western border with Chad to Ethiopia in the east. The country’s association of gum arabic producers estimates farmers will produce up to 80,000t in the 2012/2013 season, after enjoying plenty of rain in the often-dry savannah. They produced around 40,000t in the 2011/2012 season.
However, Sudanese farmers – who often produce gum arabic in small groups with little efficiency – risk losing out to growing competition from other countries like Chad and Nigeria because fighting between rebels and the army in the farming regions of Sudan, Darfur, Blue Nile and south Kordofan, has hit production.– Reuters