Gum arabic, an essential ingredient in soft drinks and chewing gum, used to be a prominent export for Sudan before the outbreak of war. However, since mid-April and the subsequent evacuation of foreign buyers, prices have collapsed.
This situation has been a real catastrophe for gum arabic producers in Sudan, laments Adam Issa Mohamed, a trader from El-Obeid, one of the main markets for this product south of Khartoum. Not only the producers have been affected, but there are also five million Sudanese who earn direct or indirect income from the production of this substance.
Despite conflict and climate change, Sudan’s gum arabic, which accounts for 70% of the world’s gross exports, has always held up. Even Washington, which has imposed sanctions on Sudan for years, granted a special exemption due to the importance of this natural emulsifier. The agri-food and pharmaceutical industries depend on gum arabic for the manufacture of soft drinks, chewing gum, and medicines.
However, after more than five weeks of war, with a balance of nearly a thousand deaths, more than a million displaced persons and refugees, and the evacuation of most of the foreigners involved in its trade, gum arabic is no longer available. except. Most of the fighting is concentrated in Khartoum, where production is centralized, and in Darfur, a rubber-producing region. Although the fighting has not reached Gadarif, where there are also acacia fields, prices have already changed dramatically due to a lack of buyers.
The International Federation for the Promotion of Rubber (AIPG) has ensured that companies have enough imported reserves from Sudan and other countries to mitigate potential supply disruptions. However, it is difficult to estimate how much the country currently exports and to calculate the actual production of rubber due to the war. Much of the production takes place in rural or desert areas controlled by armed groups and beyond state control. Even before the war, local prices for gum arabic were so low that many farmers preferred to turn their acacia trees into charcoal or work in the region’s gold mines. The war could be a devastating blow to this market, as if the acacia “belt” disappears, the entire sector will go down with it, warns Mostafa al-Sayed Khalil, director of Sudan’s Gum Arabic Council.
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