Sudan’s civil war has prompted foreign consumer goods manufacturers to scramble to replenish supplies of gum arabic, one of the country’s most sought-after items and a critical ingredient in everything from fizzy beverages to confectionery and cosmetics.
Approximately 70% of the world’s supply of gum arabic, for which there are few substitutes, comes from acacia trees in the Sahel region, which runs through Africa’s third-largest country, which is riven by fighting between the army and a paramilitary force.
Wary of Sudan’s persistent insecurity, companies dependent on the product, such as Coca Cola and Pepsico, have long stockpiled supplies, some keeping between three-to-six-months’ worth to avoid being caught short, exporters and industry sources told Reuters.
However, prior conflicts have tended to be focused in far-flung regions such as Darfur. This time, the capital Khartoum has been brought to a standstill in the fighting that broke out on April 15, paralyzing the economy and disrupting basic communications.
“Depending on how long the conflict continues there may well be ramifications for finished goods on the shelf – branded goods made by household names,” said Richard Finnegan, a procurement manager at Kerry Group, a supplier of gum arabic to most major food and beverage firms.
Finnegan estimated that current stockpiles will run out in five-to-six months, a view echoed by Martijn Bergkamp, a partner at Dutch supplier FOGA Gum who estimated between three-to-six months.