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West’s sweet tooth makes Sudan’s gum Arabic a rare export success story

gum araboc

Sudan earned $81.8 million from exporting 45,633 tonnes of gum arabic in 2011 with subsequent price and volume increases suggesting it might earn over $200 million this year.

January 6, 2013 8:10 by

There is little reliable production data for gum arabic as some gets smuggled into South Sudan and Chad. Government officials put Sudan’s global market share at 80 percent, but some analysts think this figure is much too high.


Sudanese farmers, who often produce gum arabic in small groups with little efficiency, risk losing out to growing competition from other countries. Fighting between rebels and the army in three farming regions of Sudan, Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan, has also hit production.


“Several other countries came in and competed, Chad, Nigeria…,” said Mahdi. So Sudan’s global market share could have fallen to between 20 to 40 percent, though its gum arabic is still first choice among many consumers because of its high quality, she said.


En Nahud is the last town in western Sudan before a traveller reaches the troubled region of Darfur – the paved road ends here after a 12-hour drive from Khartoum. United Nations food aid trucks continue their trip to Darfur on dirt tracks only after taking armed escorts on board.


But while En Nahud may at first glance look as desolate as other small Sudanese towns, with many of its one-storey brick buildings built during British colonial rule, it is wealthier because of gum arabic.


A large market attracts hundreds of farmers and traders every day. Shops are well-stocked with foreign food products, and restaurants are bustling with people eating meat for breakfast – a luxury for many Sudanese who have to rely on ful, a staple food made of bean and water.

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