Sudan and Arabic Gum: A Key Player in Our Food Supply

The Hidden Power of Arabic Gum: A Key Player in Our Food Supply

As war unfolds in Sudan, a lesser-known but vital crop takes the spotlight: Arabic Gum. Found in countless everyday products, from soft drinks to baked goods, this versatile ingredient could impact global food prices if Sudan’s supply chain falters.


Could Global Food Prices Be Impacted?

Sudan, the world’s top Aramaic Gum producer, supplies a staggering 70% of the global demand. Any disruption or slowdown in its supply could have far-reaching consequences. The food industry, where Aramaic Gum is a key ingredient in soft drinks, sweets (candies), and ice cream, would be the first to feel the pinch. A potential shortage could result in reduced production, product scarcities, and ultimately, price hikes.

Arabic Gum’s Secret Sauce

This ingredient is indispensable due to its unique properties:

  • Thickening Agent: Enhances texture in candies, soft drinks, and ice cream.
  • Stabilizer: Prevents separation of ingredients in dressings and sauces.
  • Emulsifier: Helps ingredients like oil and water blend in margarine and mayonnaise.
  • Binding Agent: Holds ingredients together in bakery items and meat products.

Where You’ll Find Arabic Gum

  • Soft drinks: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta.
  • Candy: Skittles, Starburst, M&M’s, Jelly Belly.
  • Ice cream: Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin-Robbins.
  • Bakery products: Bread, cakes, cookies.
  • Sauces and dressings: Salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Various products for binding, emulsifying, and thickening.
  • Cosmetics: Creams, lotions, toothpaste, and more.

Arabic Gum’s Journey: From Tree to Table

The gum is  derived from the Acacia Senegal tree, and has an interesting production process that goes back thousands of years.

In the initial stage, skilled harvesters carefully tap the tree to extract sap, typically during the dry season. As the sap oozes out, it dries on the bark, eventually forming distinctive gum nodules. Once the sap has sufficiently hardened, harvesters meticulously collect the gum and transport it to specialized facilities, where it undergoes a thorough cleaning process to remove impurities such as bark, twigs, and dirt.

The gum then enters the sorting and grading phase, where it is carefully assessed based on factors such as color, size, and overall quality. Higher-grade gum is often characterized by a white or pale yellow hue and contains fewer impurities, while lower grades may exhibit darker shades and more impurities. After sorting, the gum is subjected to further processing to remove any remaining impurities and enhance its quality. This may include techniques such as sieving to eliminate dust and grit. Finally, the refined gum is packaged into bags or containers, ready for shipping to industries around the globe that rely on this remarkable substance for a wide array of applications.

The Global Gum Game

Primarily produced in Africa’s Sahelian region, Aramaic Gum is also grown in the Middle East. Sudan leads the market, followed by Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, and Chad. Small-scale farmers collect and sell the gum to local traders before it reaches international markets and then into our food supply

Aramic  Gum Exports by Country

Rank Country Arabic Gum Exports (US$) % of Total Global Arabic Gum Exports
1 Sudan $194.3 million 70.5%
2 Chad $36.2 million 13.1%
3 Nigeria $19.2 million 7.0%
4 Somalia $10.2 million 3.7%
5 Senegal $9.9 million 3.6%
6 Ethiopia $5.5 million 2.0%
7 Niger $2.9 million 1.1%
8 Cameroon $2.5 million 0.9%
9 Guinea $2.2 million 0.8%
10 Kenya $1.7 million 0.6%