Sudan Sees Gum-Arabic Exports Up on U.S. Rule, China Demand
Bassem Abo Alabass Mohammed, Bloomberg Business
14 June 2015 (Updated on 15 June 2015)
A Sudanese worker fills bags with pieces of Arabic gum at a factory north of the capital Khartoum. Photographer: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
Sudan plans to double exports of gum arabic, a key component of soft drinks and pharmaceuticals, after the U.S. ruled to allow its greater use as a food ingredient and new markets are sought in China and Japan, the industry board said.
The North African nation targets output of 160,000 metric tons this year, of which 120,000 tons would be exported, Abdelmagid Abdelgadir, secretary-general of the state-run Gum Arabic Board, said in a June 10 phone interview. The Food and Drug Administration’s December 2013 decision to extend the permitted uses of the commodity in U.S.-made items is creating greater demand, he said from Khartoum, the capital.
“If we don’t meet our projections it would be because of domestic consumption and leaking to neighboring countries,” Abdelgadir said, referring to smuggling.
Sudan, the world’s biggest gum-arabic producer, is banking on alternative sources of revenue after South Sudan seceded four years ago, taking with it three-quarters of the united country’s oil reserves. The sap’s importance to western markets led the U.S. to exempt it from a trade embargo first imposed on Sudan in 1997 because of its alleged sponsorship of terrorism.
Sudan produced 52,000 tons between January and May, 40,000 tons of which was exported, Abdelgadir said. France takes about half of the total shipped, some of which is resold to the U.S., he said.
In 2014, western Europe and the U.S. imported most of the 60,000 tons of gum arabic sent abroad, at prices between $3,200 and $3,800 per ton, according to Abdelgadir. Domestic consumption was about 10,000 tons, while an estimated 25,000 tons may have been smuggled across the country’s borders, he said. In a previous interview in February 2014, Abdelgadir said that year’s exports could exceed 100,000 tons.
The board maintains an annual production target of 300,000 tons in the coming three years. “Japan and China are expected to be the new markets for the Sudanese crop,” he said.
Extracted from branches of acacia trees growing in Sudan’s savanna, which ranges across 12 of the country’s 18 states, gum arabic is a natural emulsifier, holding together substances that don’t mix well. Starches, the most popular alternative, are less successful at retaining flavors and their use can mean shorter shelf lives.
Abda el-Mahdi, a Khartoum-based economic consultant and former state minister of finance, in February 2014 said the plans to export 100,000 tons were “unrealistic” because of constraints in organizing producers and linking them to markets.
Speaking by phone on Sunday, the former head of the Sudanese parliament’s economic committee, Babiker Mohamed al-Toum, said Sudan could probably meet the 2015 target because of good rains and an increase in the number of people harvesting.
Sudan mostly produces the hashab, or hard, variety of gum arabic, according to the World Bank. Its main competitors include Chad and Nigeria, which mainly produce the lower quality talha, or flaky gum.
Copyright 2016 Bloomberg Bu
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