Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic

Special Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic
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A Sudanese man shows freshly-harvested gum arabic resin on the tip of a "sunki", a long wooden stick with a sharp metal edge, in the state-owned Demokaya research forest in North Kordofan, on January 9, 2023. (AFP)
Special Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic
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Sudanese men harvest gum arabic sap from an acacia tree in the state-owned Demokaya research forest of North Kordofan, Sudan, on January 9, 2023. (AFP)
Special Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic
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A Sudanese man shows gum arabic sap on the branch of an acacia tree. (AFP)
Special Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic
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Gum arabic acacia trees are not only tapped to produce valuable sap, but also help farmers relying on increasingly erratic rainfall by boosting moisture for their crops, making the difference between a healthy harvest or failure. (AFP)
Special Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic
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Gum arabic resin forms on an acacia tree branch. (AFP)
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Updated 11 min 21 sec ago

Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic

Conflict casts ominous shadow over global supplies of Sudan’s flagship export: gum Arabic
  • Soft-drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi warned stockpiles could run out in six months if Sudan fighting continues
  • Once flourishing industry has become a casualty of unrest, leaving producers and local market in dire straits

JUBA, South Sudan: The conflict in Sudan has claimed the lives, limbs and homes of growing numbers of people since it began on April 15. While the world hopes for a peaceful end to the bloodshed, many leaders of Sudanese industries warn that the economic toll of the violence could have a devastating impact on Sudan and internationally.

The once flourishing gum arabic industry in Sudan has become a casualty of the conflict, leaving producers and the local market in dire straits. Now, those who supply soft drink giants such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi have warned that their stockpiles could run out in three to six months if the fighting continues at its current pace.

Men idle their time away outside a destroyed bank branch in Khartoum, casualty to the ongoing war between rival military factions in Sudan. (AFP)

Gum arabic has dozens of uses. It serves multiple purposes in soft drinks, acting as a stabilizer to prevent flavors, coloring agents and essential oils from separating, and delivering a uniform blend of taste and aroma with every sip.

It also enhances texture and acts as a foam stabilizer, preventing excessive foaming while preventing the drink from going flat. Icings, soft candy, chewing gum and other sweets also use it as an ingredient.

Beyond its applications in food and beverages, gum arabic is used in watercolor paints, ceramic glaze, printmaking, pyrotechnics, glues, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, wine, shoe polish and lickable adhesives for postage stamps and envelopes.


In English-speaking countries, gum arabic is often referred to as gum acacia, reflecting its extraction from acacia trees that thrive in countries like Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali. Additionally, Kordofan gum is a variety of gum arabic produced in the Kordofan region of Sudan.

Exports from Darfur and Kordofan via Khartoum, especially of gum arabic, have been severely impacted since the start of the conflict. An estimated 5 million Sudanese — about 11 percent of the country’s population — rely directly or indirectly on income generated from the production of this valuable resource.

Hisham El-Kurdi, who previously implemented a gum harvesting project for smallholders, told Arab News that transportation routes had been disrupted and the capital, which serves as a hub, was embroiled in conflict, posing safety concerns for those trying to move the product.

“The majority of people in rural areas traditionally sell their products to the capital city of Sudan, Khartoum, where traders and businessmen handle the exports to various parts of the world. In the current situation, this process faces significant challenges,” he said.


A natural gum, gum arabic is the exudate of some acacia species, notably acacia Senegal and acacia Seyal, found across Africa’s so-called gum arabic belt.

Gum arabic is one of Sudan’s primary export commodities, linking the country to international markets in Europe, Asia and North America, accounting for an estimated 15% of Sudan’s exports.

There are about 1m households or 5m people who are estimated to be either directly or indirectly dependent on the gum arabic sector.

Producers live in or near gum arabic production areas that include villages and forests and take responsibility for cultivating, tapping, collecting and protecting their acacia trees during harvest months between October and February following the rainy season.

In Sudan, the acacia gum tree thrives naturally in a vast belt stretching 500,000 sq. km — roughly the size of France — from Al-Qadarif to Darfur. Recognizing its resilience in the face of droughts and climate change, international donors and African countries have invested in the Great Green Wall project, which aims to afforest the Sahel strip to combat desertification.

Akol Miyen Kuol, a South Sudanese expert on the region, told Arab News that the ongoing conflict in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces would have a negative impact on the world economy due to the widespread use of gum arabic.


“At the local and national levels, if the ongoing war in Sudan doesn’t stop quickly, it will terribly affect those who collect the gum arabic and the general income for the country,” he said.

Daniel Haddad, director of the UK-based trading company Agrigum International Ltd., told Arab News that Sudanese gum arabic was “the gold standard and finds extensive use in soft drinks, pharmaceuticals and various other industries. The significance of Sudan’s production lies in its superior quality.”

“Port Sudan is currently focused solely on humanitarian relief efforts,” he added. “As a result, there are no incoming or outgoing shipments of commercial products and there is a lack of administrative personnel available to handle banking and official paperwork. Consequently, despite the presence of gum arabic in Sudan, there is currently no significant export activity taking place.”

The impact of the fighting in Sudan is poised to wreak havoc as Sudan contributed 66 percent of the global supply of gum arabic, according to a 2018 report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.


$111m Sudan’s exports, making it the world’s second-largest exporter.

88,000 tons Total export of raw gum in 2021.

80% Sudan’s share of global gum arabic trade between 1950s and early 1990s.

70% Sudanese exporters’ share of global gum arabic supply.

25,000 tons Average annual Sudanese gum arabic exports.

50,000 tons Average amount of exports in the 1950s and 1960s.

$10m Value of FAO-financed Sudan’s forestry project to support gum arabic farmers, protect trees.

“If the situation continues, it will cause concern, but we’re pretty confident something will happen,” Haddad said.

“For each customer, each company, each product, gum arabic has a different use in the application. It could somehow get replaced, but customers don’t like artificial ingredients.”

Sudanese gum arabic, which accounts for 70 percent of the country’s exports, is so critical to the global economy that the US granted an exception for it even amid its embargoes on Sudan.

“I remain optimistic that gum arabic could serve as a catalyst to bring people together and facilitate the resolution of existing problems,” Haddad said.



“By addressing the challenges surrounding gum arabic production and export, it is possible to restore a sense of normalcy.

“This, in turn, would enable the people of Sudan and Khartoum to return to their homes, access essential resources such as food and electricity, and rebuild their lives. It is my sincere hope that such positive developments will unfold and contribute to a return to normalcy for the affected regions.”



Gum arabic

Extracted from the sap of some Acacia tree species, gum arabic has plenty of uses, such as stabilizer in soft drinks and multiple uses for other foods. It is also used in watercolor paints, ceramic glaze, printmaking, pyrotechnics, glues, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, wine, shoe polish and lickable adhesives for postage stamps and envelopes. Gum arabic is one of the main products of Sudan, which accounts for 30 per cent of total exports worldwide. Because of the war in Sudan, producers — such as soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi — and the local market are in dire straits.

World leaders congratulate Turkiye’s victorious Erdogan

World leaders congratulate Turkiye’s victorious Erdogan
Updated 9 sec ago

World leaders congratulate Turkiye’s victorious Erdogan

World leaders congratulate Turkiye’s victorious Erdogan
  • Turkiye President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won reelection Sunday
ANKARA: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin were among world leaders congratulating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he won Sunday’s historic runoff election to extend his two-decade rule.

US President Biden said he hoped to work with Erdogan on “shared global challenges”.
“I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges,” Biden tweeted, making no mention of recent tensions in the bilateral relationship.

Russia’s President Putin, who has collaborated closely with Erdogan on key international issues despite some disagreements, told Turkiye’s leader that his win was “the logical result of your dedicated work”.
“Your victory in these elections is the logical result of your dedicated work as head of the Turkish Republic, a clear evidence of the Turkish people’s support for your efforts to strengthen state sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy,” Putin said, according to the Kremlin website.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission of the European Union, which Erdogan aspires for Turkiye to join, said the bloc wanted to strengthen ties with the country.
“I congratulate (Erdogan) on winning the elections. I look forward to continue building the EU-Turkiye relationship,” she wrote on Twitter, using an alternate spelling for Turkiye.
“It is of strategic importance for both the EU and Turkiye to work on advancing this relationship, for the benefit of our people.”

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the NATO military alliance, of which Turkiye is a member, also sent congratulations.
“Congratulations President (Erdogan) on your re-election. I look forward to continuing our work together and preparing for the NATO Summit in July,” he tweeted.

UN chief Antonio Guterres congratulated Erdogan on his re-election, the secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement Sunday.
“He looks forward to further strengthening the cooperation between Turkiye and the United Nations,” Dujarric added.

French leader Emmanuel Macron said the two nations had “immense challenges” to work on together.
Writing on Twitter, Macron said these included the “return of peace to Europe”.
“With President Erdogan, who I congratulate, we will continue to move forward,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the win for Erdogan, who since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has positioned himself as a mediator in the conflict.
“We count on the further strengthening of the strategic partnership for the good of our countries, as well as the strengthening of cooperation for the security and stability of Europe,” Zelensky said in a post on Twitter, where he congratulated Erdogan on his victory.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed the countries as “close partners and allies” whose “people and economies are deeply intertwined”.
“Congratulations to President Erdogan — together we want to advance our common agenda with a fresh impetus,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I am confident that our bilateral ties and cooperation on global issues will continue to grow in the coming times.”

Pregnant woman who escaped Khartoum gives birth to ‘miracle’ baby in Cairo

Pregnant woman who escaped Khartoum gives birth to ‘miracle’ baby in Cairo
Updated 18 min 35 sec ago

Pregnant woman who escaped Khartoum gives birth to ‘miracle’ baby in Cairo

Pregnant woman who escaped Khartoum gives birth to ‘miracle’ baby in Cairo
  • Seeking to join her husband in UK as a refugee
  • Home Office accused of life-threatening delays

LONDON: A pregnant woman who was shot, escaped an overturned car and walked for hours from Khartoum to reach the Egyptian border has given birth to a “miracle” baby, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

The 25-year-old woman and her husband are Eritrean refugees. Her husband was given refugee status in the UK, and applied to the Home Office for a refugee family reunion visa in February 2022, the newspaper reported.

The woman with her 3-year-old daughter were stuck in the Sudanese capital when the conflict began. Their home was hit by shelling and they struggled to access food, water and medical treatment. The woman then decided to seek refuge in Egypt.

“We didn’t tell our daughter anything about the war in Khartoum because we didn’t want to frighten her,” the husband told The Guardian.

He continued: “She could hear the sound of gunfire in Khartoum but my wife told her not to worry because it was just fireworks.

“My wife and daughter had to leave everything behind when they escaped from Khartoum.

 “My wife just took our marriage certificate and my daughter took one small bear with her she called Mohammed. She asked to name her little brother after her bear.”

The mother and daughter set out on a dangerous four-day journey from Khartoum to the Egyptian border, traveling by lorry, bus and taxi.

During their trip, a wheel came off the car they were traveling in and overturned, The Guardian reported. While some of the passengers were injured, the two were unharmed and were able to bargain a price for continuing their journey in another car.

The two then walked for several hours from Port Sudan to the border crossing in the middle of the night.

The woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy in a Cairo hospital on Wednesday, The Guardian reported.

The husband, who is urgently trying to bring his family to the UK, has accused the Home Office of putting their lives at risk as a result of long delays.

Since 2019, the number of refugees resettled in the UK has fallen by 75 percent, while family reunion visas are 40 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

When the couple first applied for a family reunion visa, the usual processing period was 12 weeks, The Guardian reported. However, when the family’s lawyer inquired about the delay in February, 12 months after the application was submitted, the Home Office said they were facing “considerable delays” in family reunion approvals and would be unable to provide an updated time frame for a decision.

“I hope the family reunion visa application will be processed very soon,” the husband said.

 He added: “The safe arrival of our baby is a miracle and he is a sign of hope for the future.

 “I had to pay a lot of money for the journey out of Khartoum to bring my wife and daughter to safety but money comes and money goes … only life matters.”



Christian blocs indicate support for Jihad Azour as a Lebanon presidential candidate 

Among the likely names from the Christian bloc suggested for the role is former Finance Minister Jihad Azour.
Among the likely names from the Christian bloc suggested for the role is former Finance Minister Jihad Azour.
Updated 29 May 2023

Christian blocs indicate support for Jihad Azour as a Lebanon presidential candidate 

Among the likely names from the Christian bloc suggested for the role is former Finance Minister Jihad Azour.
  • Patriarch Al-Rahi praises parliamentary consensus before his trip to Vatican and France
  • Hezbollah sees nomination of Azour as a ploy to overthrow their candidate Frangieh

BEIRUT: News emerged on Sunday that the largest Christian blocs in the Lebanese parliament — the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces, and the Lebanese Phalanges Party — were moving toward reaching a consensus on a presidential candidate.

Among the likely names suggested for the role is former Finance Minister Jihad Azour, 57.

Azour currently serves as the director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi made a possible reference to the consensus in his Sunday sermon on the eve of his trip to the Vatican and then to Paris.

Al-Rahi expressed hope that a president of the republic would be elected as soon as possible so that the constitutional institutions could be organized.

He said: “We thank God for what we hear about some consensus among parliamentary blocs regarding the future president, so that he does not pose a challenge to anyone, and at the same time possesses a personality that responds to Lebanon’s needs today and inspires internal and external confidence.”

Al-Rahi hoped the “chaos occurring at several levels” would also stop soon.

Hezbollah and the political coalition allied with it support the nomination of Sleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Party who is close to the Syrian regime, but most Christian parliamentary blocs in Lebanon reject him.

Mohammed Raad, Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc chief, reacted to the possibility of the Christian parliamentary blocs reaching a consensus on Azour as their candidate.

Raad said in a statement on Sunday that “the candidate whose name is circulating is a maneuvering candidate whose mission is to confront the candidate we support and to undermine him.”

He called on the other group “to stop wasting time and prolonging the deadline.”

The presidential vacuum in Lebanon will enter its eighth month on June 1 after 11 parliamentary election sessions failed to enable a presidential candidate to reach the second round of the presidential elections due to a lack of quorum.

Opposition forces to Hezbollah previously insisted on nominating MP Michel Mouawad, but Hezbollah considered him an “inflammatory candidate.”

A political analyst stated that Azour did not want to be a “confrontational or challenging candidate.”

The Lebanese media reported that Azour said he “wants to be the president who carries a rescue project for the country with the approval of everyone.”

The political analyst was cautious about “considering Azour as a final candidate for the Christian blocs, in anticipation of any surprises or changes in positions at the last moment.”

He, however, praised what he saw as the positive direction achieved so far.

MP Elias Hankash, who is involved in the negotiations, said that the chances of electing a president soon had improved.

He also said that name of former Minister Azour was among the names agreed upon by the Free Patriotic Movement.

Hankash said: “There is an insistence that we cannot devote the presidency to Hezbollah.”

He emphasized that “we want an acceptable candidate who has the specifications that we do not compromise on, and we see that the country cannot tolerate settlements, and we are not talking today about a settlement but about accepting a candidate.

“There are principles that many have died for, and a settlement occurs when we give up on principles, but when we agree on a name, this is not called a settlement.”

MP George Okais, a former judge and member of the Lebanese Forces party, spoke of progress in the negotiations between the opposition and the Free Patriotic Movement, without yet reaching an agreement on a unified name.

Okais said he expected that next week could be a turning point in this direction.

He pointed out that the proposal of Azour came as a result of an agreement with the Free Patriotic Movement on a non-provocative name for the Hezbollah team.

At the same time, he said the name could unify the ranks of the opposition, “so we have gone halfway, waiting for the other team.”

Ali Hassan Khalil, a member of the Amal Movement bloc, believes that “the logic of political forces coming together only to obstruct the candidate we supported cannot lead our country to safety.”

He added: “When we supported a candidate for the presidency (Frangieh), we were guided by deep convictions that we wanted a president who could manage national consensus.”

Hashem Safieddine, head of Hezbollah’s executive council, said: “There is no way to reach a president of the republic except through consensus.”

Safieddine added: “This is Lebanon, and this is its nature, and this is how the solutions are in it.” 

Maronite Patriarchate spokesperson Walid Ghayad said on Sunday that Al-Rahi was heading to the Vatican on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

He will then travel to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

According to Ghayad, Al-Rahi will ask for France’s assistance in the Syrian refugee issue in Lebanon and the necessity of their return to their country, in addition to addressing financial matters, especially in light of the economic crisis.

Azour coordinated the implementation of important reform initiatives when he served as the finance minister from 2005 to 2008.

Before and after this tenure, he held several positions in the private sector.

They include working at McKinsey & Company and Booz & Company, where he was a senior partner and executive adviser.

Before joining the IMF in March 2017, he was a managing partner at the consulting and investment firm Infinity Partners for investment and business consulting.

Syria says Israeli missiles target sites near Damascus

Syria says Israeli missiles target sites near Damascus
Updated 29 May 2023

Syria says Israeli missiles target sites near Damascus

Syria says Israeli missiles target sites near Damascus
  • The last Israeli air raids on Syria on May 2 left seven dead

DAMASCUS: Syrian army air defenses on Sunday confronted an Israeli missile strike on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, and there were no casualties, state media said.
Citing a Syrian military source, state media said missile strikes coming from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights had targeted several sites it did not identify.
“Our air defenses confronted the aggressors’ missiles and downed some of them with only material losses,” the Syrian military source said.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
Israel has for years carried out attacks on what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar Assad in a civil war that started in 2011.
The strikes are part of an escalation of what has been a low-intensity conflict with a goal of slowing Iran’s growing entrenchment in Syria, Israeli military experts say.
Fighters allied to Iran, including Hezbollah, now hold sway in vast areas in eastern, southern, and northwestern Syria and in several suburbs around the capital.


Israel launches ‘eye in the sky’ balloon in Galilee

Israel launches ‘eye in the sky’ balloon in Galilee
Updated 28 May 2023

Israel launches ‘eye in the sky’ balloon in Galilee

Israel launches ‘eye in the sky’ balloon in Galilee
  • High-tech device to offer early warning of drones, missiles as conflict fears grow

RAMALLAH: A surveillance balloon launched by the Israeli military in the northern Galilee region will provide early warning of long-range missiles and drones targeting the country, sources said on Sunday.

Israeli authorities said that the balloon weighs several tons, and is equipped with specialist cameras, computers and radar.

The balloon is located on the triangle of the Jordanian-Syrian border, and can monitor territory hundreds of kilometers away. 

Military sources said that the new balloon is similar to the device that protects the Dimona reactor in the Negev desert.

It will be able to detect long-range missiles and drones launched from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as monitor aircraft at Damascus airport and deep into Lebanon, the sources said. 

According to the sources, transporting and launching the balloon was one of the most complex logistical operations the Israeli Air Force has carried out in the past decade.

A US team helped to assemble and launch the balloon, the sources said.

The Israeli army expects any future war to be a “multi-front” confrontation, with coordinated attacks involving thousands of aircraft, including drones, and cruise missiles. 

The system, developed jointly by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the US Missile Defense Agency, comprises a balloon capable of flying at high altitudes with radar and detection systems to scan a large area in any direction.

Rami Shmuel, CEO of RT, an Israeli company that makes surveillance balloons, told Arab News that the systems are much better than drones or other security surveillance methods from both economic and operational perspectives. 

“The balloon costs $1 per hour, while the done costs $600, and it can stay in the sky between 14-20 days continuously, while the drone can stay for a few hours only,” Shmuel said.

He said that balloons, unlike drones, can be fitted with cumbersome high-resolution cameras.

“It’s the best security surveillance and warning method,” Shmuel added.

Majdi Halabi, an expert on Israeli affairs, told Arab News that Iran has provided Hezbollah in Lebanon with hundreds of Shahid and Khaybar drones, which pose a significant threat to Israel.

The surveillance balloon will allow drones to be intercepted and brought down before they cross Israel’s borders, he said.

“If 5,000 drones and missiles were launched by Hezbollah toward Israel, it would cause terrible destruction,” Halabi added.

According to the sources, Israel faces significant defense challenges, particularly in the north.

Yoni Ben Menachem, an Israeli analyst, told Arab News the country has accurate intelligence regarding Hezbollah’s intention to attack Israeli targets.

He referred to a statement by Naim Qassem, deputy head of the party, who said the next war would be fought inside (Israel) and not in southern Lebanon.

“Hezbollah is trying to change the game rules that have prevailed since the July 2006 war by moving the battle into Israel instead of southern Lebanon.”

Meanwhile, Israel will begin large-scale military maneuvers on Monday, including the air force, army and navy, in areas across the country. Combat aircraft will take part in the exercises, which will last about two weeks.

Civil aviation routes in Israel will be changed and airspace closed to small aircraft during the exercises.