Peanut traders baffled by Sudan export ban on key cash crop

Sudan was once so famous for its produce of peanuts that some called the tasty seed snack ‘Sudani’ in Arabic — but now, an export ban has left traders reeling. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Peanut traders baffled by Sudan export ban on key cash crop

  • The country is the 5th largest peanut producer, with 14% of world production

KHARTOUM: Sudan has been a top producer of peanuts for so long that the nutritious variety is called the “Sudani” — but a government export ban has left traders reeling.

Rimaz Ahmed, commercial director of Abnaa Sayed Elobeid, one of Sudan’s major agricultural export companies, was stunned by the sudden decision of the Trade Ministry to ban the export of raw peanuts.

The government says it wants Sudan to process the nuts inside the country to earn more money.

But traders said they were not given time to prepare.

“It’s a shock because we were not warned,” Ahmed said, of the April 1 restrictions. “Overnight, we lost important markets. Immediately, India replaced us.”

The two main customers for Sudan’s peanuts were China and Indonesia.

On the wall of Ahmed’s office, a poster in English praising the crops — “Peanuts: A Culture with the Flavours of Sudan” — seems to be from another time.

The export ban was a shock for many in the African nation, which, according to the UN, is the fifth largest peanut producer, with 14 percent of world production.

Protein-rich peanuts, which are also called groundnuts, provide rural employment and much needed foreign exchange.

Before the trade ban, peanuts were Sudan’s fifth biggest international earner after gold, sesame, oil and livestock.

The decision comes at a tough time for the country.

Sudan has endured years of international isolation and sanctions, and is now emerging from decades of dictatorship.

Longtime strongman Omar Bashir was toppled last year after months of mass demonstrations.

For Sudan, peanuts are a flagship product, like another of its major exports, gum arabic.

“It is as if France banned the export of wine overnight, or if Italy stopped selling its spaghetti abroad,” Ahmed said.

Income from the crop was rising.

Sudan produced 1.5 million tons in 2019, worth 205 million dollars, according to central bank figures, up from 59 million dollars earned in 2018.

Trade Minister Madani Abbas Madani defended halting exports “to maximize the market value of peanuts and the added value of Sudanese products, in light of climate change which affects the quality” of the product.

For the government, the hope is that Sudan can earn more money through selling products from processed peanuts — such as oil or butter.

Peanuts can also be used in industrial products, including cosmetics.

Critics of the ban on exporting unprocessed nuts have questioned why it was introduced so abruptly, suggesting that it might be a personal whim of the trade minister.

But the minister has insisted his decision was “within the framework of government policy.”

He has yet to convince traders, however.

“We agree in principle it may be good for the country, but we are not at all prepared,” Ahmed said.

“We have neither the machines nor the know-how. It will take time — and in the meantime we have lost our big customers.”

For Sudan, a predominantly agricultural country, the ban could have a major impact on rural employment.

The news has not yet reached some farmers.

In Ardashiva, a village 70 km south of the capital Khartoum, Khair Daoud, 31, digs around his peanut plants.

This year, he has planted over 12 acres of peanuts, saying that if prices rise as they have done in recent years, he would nearly double his production next season.

“If not, I will rely on okra, cotton or sorghum,” the farmer said, dressed in traditional flowing white robes, with a neat skullcap of the same color.

“I haven’t heard anything about exporting. I don’t know if my buyers are selling my produce locally, or for export.”

Peanuts are well suited to Sudan’s climate, growing both under irrigation in the center and east, or from rainwater in war-torn Darfur in the west, or Kordofan in the south.

At the chamber of commerce in Khartoum, businessman Izzeldin Malik said the government’s ban was self-defeating.

“With this decision, Sudan shot itself in the foot,” said Malik, owner of the Rubicon peanut export company.

“While the deficit in Sudan’s trade balance should be reduced, the minister made a decision to increase it.”

Japan receives first shipment of blue ammonia from Saudi Aramco, SABIC

Updated 28 September 2020

Japan receives first shipment of blue ammonia from Saudi Aramco, SABIC

JAPAN: Saudi Aramco and Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics (IEEJ) announced the first shipment of blue ammonia from Saudi Arabia to Japan on Sunday.

The shipment, which was in partnership with Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), contained forty tons of high-grade blue ammonia, and is meant for use in zero-carbon power generation.

Saudi Aramco said in a statement that shipping challenges were overcome with 30 tons of CO2 captured during the process designated for use in methanol production at one of SABIC’s facilities and another 20 tons of captured CO2 being used for enhanced oil recovery at Aramco’s field.

Mitsubishi Corporation, which is representing IEEJ’s study team, is working with SABIC to monitor the transport logistics in partnership with JGC Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co and UBE Industries.

“The shipment is considered the first around the world, and it represents a crucial opportunity for Aramco to introduce hydrocarbons as a reliable and affordable source of low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia,” said Ahmad Al-Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer, Saudi Aramco, according to Saudi media.

Fahad Al-Sherehy, SABIC’s Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Carbon Management, also said: “At SABIC, we can economically leverage our existing infrastructure for hydrogen and ammonia production with CO2 capture. Our experience in the full supply chain along with integrated petrochemicals facilities will play an important role in providing the world with the blue ammonia.”

Ammonia can help supply the world’s increasing demand for energy through reliable and sustainable methods. 

The Saudi-Japan blue ammonia supply network involved a full value chain; including the conversion of hydrocarbons to hydrogen and then to ammonia, as well as the capture of associated carbon dioxide emissions.