The Economic Impact of Gum Arabic

Mohamed Abdalla

Sudan is one of the largest Gum Arabic producer, it provide 80% of the world’s production and trade, also it plays a crucial role in both economic and social life of the people, namely in the rural areas, many people depends on “Gum Arabic” as steady income beside its contribution to GDP of the country.
The government of Sudan has set plans and policies to promote Gum Arabic products; the land has been expanded, nearly 669,291 feddans was the covered land in 1996, the promotion included various phases, from planting to marketing “Over the years Sudan has developed a complete protocol of gum arabic husbandry from seed collection through nursery techniques, planting, tending, tapping, collection, cleaning, grading, processing and marketing” H.O. Abdel Nour has explained in his scientific research.
Gum Arabic concentrates on certain areas, here we can read how Abdel Nour has categorized the most Gum Arabic produced lands “Production of gum arabic is concentrated in the “gum belt” an area of central Sudan roughly between latitudes 10o and 14o North. Two areas outside these borders are in the north east (Faw-Gedared-Kassala) and in the south east along the Blue Nile/Upper Nile border.
The Gum belt’s gross area is estimated to cover 520,000 square kilometers, roughly one fifth of Sudan’s total area. It spans over the following states: Western Darfur, N. Darfur, S. Darfur, N. Kordofan, W. Kordofan, S. Kordofan, White Nile, , Sennar, Blue Nile and Gedaref. The belt covers parts of the clay and sandy plains”.
Edward B. Barbier, Colorado State University | CSU · Department of Economics has explained the economic importance of Gum Arabic in Sudan and how does the government improve it? “The economic and environmental benefits of gum arabic production in the Sudano-Sahelian zone appear attractive. However, the farm-level economics of gum arabic production is complex, and much more needs to be understood about the economic-environmental interactions determining farmers’ gum cropping. The following ideas explores these issues in Sudan through a crop profitability analysis of gum and other crops combined with financial and economic analyses of six representative gum arabic production systems. Although the returns from gum compare favourably with other crops in Sudan, essential investments by farmers in cultivating gum will depend on its real producer price being maintained and other incentives determining the relative profitability of gum”. While In October 1993, Omer A/El Karim El Wasila has participated in Regional Expert Consultation on non-wood Forest Products (NWFP) which was convened in Arusha, Tanzania to affirm that Sudan is largest Gum Arabic producer. “Sudan account for nearly 80% of the world production of gum arabic. It is the third largest export item from Sudan, after Cotton and Sorghum. The total production and its distribution between different producing areas have undergone changes (There is a notice declination in Kordofan, Darfur and Eastern State while the Central State is promising). The Gum Arabic company purchased all the quantities produced in the country. However, this is not the actual production. Some of the production is smuggled outside the country especially through Chad and Ethiopia due to the high international; prices in comparison to what is paid to the merchants, hence smuggling is extremely profitable.
Another type of gum produced from Acacia seyal is closely linked to the production of hashab gum (Acacia senegal) when production of hashab gum is high neither the producer nor the gum arabic company are interested in the collection of Talh gum when there is a short fall in production, farmers are started to collect Talh to substitute the loss in hashab although its prices are cheap.
The species which are commercially tapped are Acacia senegal (Hashab), Acacia seyal (Talh) and Boswellia papyrifera (gafal) or Tarag Tarag. 90% of the gum exported from Sudan is hashab. Also there is potential for Sterculia setigera (Tartar or Karaya) in world markets.
Gum Arabic is also a significant source of cash income for the peasant communities occupying the gum belt. Population estimates are highly uncertain, but table 1.1 shows that the areas of Kordofan, Darfur, Eastern and Central States accounts for some 10 million people, with perhaps 2.8 million people living in the gum belt”.

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