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Civil War in Sudan. Difficulties in accessing gum arabic – the basic ingredient of many products

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The ongoing conflict in Sudan broke out on April 15 between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF). The civil war caused leading companies from all over the world to start a race to replenish stocks of gum arabic, of which Sudan is a significant producer. The case concerns many groups of goods – from carbonated drinks through sweets to cosmetics.

About 70 percent of the production of gum arabic, for which there are few substitutes, comes from acacia trees in the Sahel region, which runs from Senegal to Eritrea including by Sudan – the third largest country in Africa just engulfed in civil war.

Companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsico are now stockpiling additional stocks, Reuters reports.

While earlier conflicts took place in remote regions, such as in Darfur, now the fighting also extends to Khartoum – the capital of the country. This paralyzed the economy and disrupted basic communications.

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“Depending on how long the conflict lasts, there could be consequences for products on store shelves from key producers,” Richard Finnegan, purchasing manager at Kerry Group, supplier of gum arabic to most major food companies, told the agency. .

The stocks of gum arabic will run out in 6 months

Finnegan estimated that the current supply would run out in five to six months. Martijn Bergkamp, ​​a partner of Dutch supplier FOGA Gum, estimated it would take three to six months.

Global production of arabic gum is around 120,000 tonnes a year and is worth $1.1 billion, according to estimates cited by Kerry Group. Most are in the “rubber belt” that stretches 500 miles from east to west in Africa, where arable land meets desert, including EthiopiaChad, Somalia and Eritrea.

Twelve exporters, suppliers and distributors contacted by Reuters said trade in rubber, which helps bind food and drink ingredients together, has been halted.

It is now “impossible” to source additional gum arabic from rural parts of Sudan due to riots and roadblocks, said Mohamad Alnoor, who runs Gum Arabic USAselling the product to consumers as a health supplement.

Gum arabic is the basis of the Pepsi or Coca-Cola business

The Kerry Group and other suppliers, including Swedish company Gum Sudan, said in response to Reuters inquiries that they were having a hard time contacting their contacts in Sudan, and that Port Sudan, where the product is shipped, was prioritizing the evacuation of civilians.

“Our suppliers are struggling to secure necessities due to the conflict,” Jinesh Doshi, managing director of Vijay Bros, a Mumbai-based importer, told the agency. “Both buyers and sellers have no idea when the situation will normalize,” he added.

Alwaleed Ali, owner of AGP Innovations Co Ltd, a gum arabic exporter, said his customers are looking for alternative countries to source their gum arabic. It sells the rubber to Nexira SAS, based in Rouen, France, and Ingredion Inc, based in Westchester, Illinois, two major suppliers of ingredients to manufacturers of products such as pet food, soda and candy bars.

A spokesperson for Ingredion, in an email to Reuters, said that “we are taking proactive measures across our company to ensure continuity of supply to our customers.”

PepsiCo declined to comment on the supply chain and commodity issues, while Coca-Cola did not respond to a request for comment at all.

“Companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola cannot exist without gum arabic in their formulas,” said Dani Haddad, marketing and development director at Agrigum, one of the leading gum suppliers.

Food and beverage companies use a dried and powdered version of the gum, according to industry sources. Although cosmetics manufacturers may use substitutes, there is no alternative to gum arabic in carbonated beverages, where it is used to prevent the ingredients from separating.

The importance of gum arabic for the consumer goods industry is evidenced by the fact that despite the fact that many sanctions have been imposed on Sudan by the US since the 1990s, they have not once applied to this product. Both because it is a critical commodity and because of the fear of creating a black market as a consequence.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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