Jigawa state to boost gum arabic supplies
Lagos announces plans to sow 500 million seeds to produce the
popular confectionery ingredient, writes Lindsey Partos.
The Jigawa state government will plant gum arabic, a shrub with distinct commercial value, in its bid to stop the fast advancing desert sand.
Gum arabic, also known as acacia gum (E414 in the EU), is widely used by the food and beverage industry; particularly in confectionery categories, where it is included to delay or prevent sugar crystallisation and to emulsify fat.
Obtained from Acacia trees in the gum belt of Africa, the top producers (Sudan, Chad and Nigeria) bring about 50,000 tonnes of gum arabic to the market each year.
But political and climatic factors in these primary producing countries have led to spikes in the price of the ingredient, known as the 'Rolls Royce' of gums.
Since Spring 2004 prices have remained fairly stable, seeing only slight fluctuations, and are currently in the region of $4,000 a tonne. But this is still considerably higher than its 'natural' price, of about $2000 to $2500 a tonne.
Hoping to gain from the strong demand for the ingredient, the county's daily paper, This Day reports that the seeds will be distributed free, and will also serve as source of income to the people.
About 10,080 hectares of land is expected to be planted with gum arabic between now and 2007.
Desert encroachment is a major problem for the country, with hundreds of kilometres of fertile land already lost to desert sand.