This from the now defunct Sudanese Government web site.
Gum Arabic: The Ancient Ingredient for the 21st Century!


This extraordinary gift from nature exceeds all synthetic imitators in the quality of emulsions it forms. For the difficult jobs, gum arabic is the product of choice. The product is plentiful now and readily available for delivery commitments over the short and long term. Modern quality control assurance and a price less than half of levels of only two years ago add to its appeal for producers of beverages, confectionery, diet foods, encapsulated flavors, and pharmaceuticals.

Gum arabic, or acacia gum, is the resin exuded by Acacia Senegal trees. The tapping and harvesting of the trees in the semi-arid regions of the Sudan are colorful but physically demanding activities that are vital to the economy of the Sudan. Several million people must be mobilized to make the industry function effectively. Under the guidance and financing of the Gum Arabic Co., Ltd., major strides have been made is establishing reliable procurement programs and large buffer stock inventories to protect against supply interruptions.

Gum arabic is a superior emulsion former that has no substitute among synthetic additives. It provides excellent shelflife stability to oil in water emulsions and does not mask flavors with a filmy texture or off-flavor on the tongue.
Produced in nature, Gum Arabic is 95% soluble fiber calculated on a dry basis. Its calorific value is arguably less than half that of starches and maltodextrins. Unlike synthetic additives, Gum Arabic is labeled in the United States as "ADI Not Specified", allowing unlimited use in food products.

1. Executive summary
The study investigated the US and EU market for gum Arabic for the 1989-1993 period. The supply varies from year to year and consequently the price fluctuates. The supply can be controlled to a certain level with buffer stocks. Political and economic unrest together with climatic problems in many producing countries are the major reasons for supply variations. Therefore market trends should be analyzed over 3-5 year periods. Sudan dominates the world market with about a 60% market share.

The major user of gum Arabic is the food industry. Gum Arabic is also used in pharmaceuticals and the printing industry. Based on the research data the demand for gum Arabic at this moment appears to flat or only slightly increasing. However, its many important functions and uses will ensure its demand in the future.

EU imports totaled 23.2 thousand metric tonnes in 1993. US imports for the same period were 5.5 thousand metric tonnes. About 40% of the US imports were processed gum Arabic. European imports consisted mostly of crude gum Arabic. European countries (mainly France) re-exports processed gum Arabic to the US.

2. Product description
Considered the oldest and best known of the gums, gum Arabic or gum acacia, as it is also called, can be traced back to about 2650 BC Gum Arabic is the natural gum exuded by various species of Acacia. The main source of commercial gum Arabic is Acacia Senegal L. Willd., also called Acacia verek. According to suppliers, it is also the best quality gum Arabic. Gum from A. seyal, known as gum talha, is not approved for food use in the US and Europe and it is mainly used in non-food products. Minor quantities of gum are obtained from A. laeta and other Acacia species. Throughout the world there are more than 1000 species and sub- species of the Acacia tree which exude gum.

The trees grow mainly in the sub-Sahara or Sahel zone of Africa but also in Australia, India and South America. The main producing and exporting countries in the ‘gum belt’ include Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan. Sudan dominates the world gum trade with a market share of about 60%.

Gum Arabic has a very special place in the food sector, having been a major ingredient for years especially in a number of confectionery products. It has tremendous export potential as long as attention is paid to quality and consistency of supply.

2.1. Production
Gum is exuded from A. Senegal trees in the form of large (5 cm diameter) nodules or tears. Mature trees, 4.5-6 m high and 5-25 years old, are tapped by making incisions in the branches and stripping away bark to accelerate exudation. The gum dries into rough spheres which are manually collected. Collection takes place at intervals during the dry season from November to May and two main harvests are taken in December and April in major producing areas in the northern hemisphere. In general the higher the average temperature, the greater the production of gum. However, the yield from each tree rarely exceeds 300 g per harvest.

Acacia trees are grown from seedlings which are planted when they reach the height of 15- 20 cm. Gum production can begin when the trees are 5 years old although gum may be tapped from the trees after 3 years. However, the quality and yield are consistent only after 5 years. Also according to a British importer, old crop gum Arabic has a better viscosity than new crop gum.

Gum production from wild stands of Acacia trees is being replaced by the cultivation of uniform stands of monocultures of A. Senegal. According to Chemical Marketing Reporter a Sudanese research project started in 1990 is trying to develop new, drought-resistant acacia trees which will bear higher yield and more consistent quality. Gum Arabic from other African countries may be variable in quality due to the mixed species of Acacia trees found in the collection areas. A US food industry consultant emphasized the fact that the soil composition of different regions together with varying climate conditions affect the color and quality of gum Arabic. Therefore gum Arabic from different regions might not necessarily be interchangeable in food production.

2.2. Standards and specifications
Sudanese production of gum Arabic is fairly tightly controlled and the grading system of the Sudanese production is used as an industry standard. Different grading systems are operated in the other exporting countries but supplies from reputable dealers can match Sudanese material. The two main grades are ‘hand-picked-selected’(HPS) and ‘cleaned’. Other grades may be offered as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Gum Arabic: equivalent commercial grades.
Powdered gum
solution properties
Sudanese grade Alternative terms Nigerian grade Clarity Color
-- Superior selected* -- Clear Very pale color
Hand-picked-selected (HPS) Selected sorts -- Clear Pale yellow
Cleaned and sifted Cleaned, sifted sorts No. 1 Clear Pale-dark yellow
Cleaned Cleaned amber sorts or cleaned Kordofan No. 1 Slight haze Pale-dark yellow
Siftings -- No. 2 Cloudy Yellow-amber
Dust -- No. 3 Opaque Dark amber- brown
* Processed powder only.

Source: Imeson, A.P. 1992. Thickening and gelling agents for food. p. 69.

Variations in consignment quality and a lack of local cleaning facilities have been addressed by importers in the US and Europe who purchase material on the basis of approval of pre-delivery samples and then process to ensure product specifications are met.

The three main specifications that are widely used by the importers when importing raw gum Arabic are:

moisture content 12-14%
optical rotation -25- -35
foreign matter < 3-5%

These specifications must be met before exporting is possible. Also the microbiological count for Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus must be negative.

2.3. Processing, packaging, shipment
Historically, gum Arabic was simply sold in its natural state with little or no processing. Much raw material continues to be sold but it is now pre-cleaned to remove bark, sand and impurities. Material sold in kibbled (coarsely ground), granulated or powder form is also usually pre-cleaned to improve quality. After cleaning, the bark and foreign matter is below 0.5% in food grade powdered Acacia gum.

Sudan now exports only semi-processed or processed kibbled variety gum Arabic instead of crude gum lumps. The kibbled variety can be used as such or further processed. It must also be noted that European countries import more crude material than the US. European countries re-export a lot of processed gum Arabic to the US. In 1993 40% of US gum Arabic imports were processed. The percentage for European imports of processed gum Arabic is lower than for the US but an exact figure was not available.

The crude gum Arabic is exported either in burlap or jute sacks. The US regulations require that only new, unused jute sacks are used. Semi-processed and processed kibbled variety, granules and powdered gum Arabic is exported in drums, polyethylene lined multi-wall paper bags or polyethylene lined cardboard boxes. Gum Arabic, when stored in cool (21 -24 C)7 and dry place, has in reason an unlimited shelf life.

Exported gum Arabic is mostly transported by vessel which is much cheaper than transport by air. For example in 1993, 70 % of the US imports of gum Arabic was transported by vessel. Since the shelf-life of gum Arabic is virtually unlimited, the slower transportation by vessel compared to transportation by air is not a limiting factor.

2.4. Usage overview
By far gum Arabic is mostly used in the different sectors of the food industry. Other areas where gum Arabic is used are pharmaceuticals and the printing industry. The use of gum Arabic in non-food use has been estimated to grow about 4% (on volume basis) between 1988-1995. The use of gum Arabic in food use has been estimated to decrease about 3.5% during the same period. Xanthan gum use in food products is predicted to grow about 11% (on volume basis) between 1988-1995. These predictions concern the market in West-Europe.

However, the demand for gum Arabic and for hydrocolloids in general varies significantly between food and non-food applications and, in the food industry, between sectors and individual product groups within a sector. Also the demand varies from country to country and this complicates the evaluation of current and forecast demand.

2.5. Applications and uses
In food products gum Arabic is used as a functional ingredient, which means that the typical functions of gum Arabic are:
•  emulsifier
•  flavoring agent
•  humectant
•  thickener
•  surface-finishing agent
•  retards sugar crystallization

In addition gum Arabic has water solubility, is insoluble in alcohols and forms colorless, tasteless solutions. The food applications of gum Arabic have been developed from its unequaled combination of properties. Emulsification, acid stability, low viscosity at high concentration, adhesive and binding properties and good mouthfeel characteristics have been used in five main food areas (worldwide) in descending order of importance:

•  confectionery
•  beverages and emulsions
•  flavor encapsulation
•  bakery products
•  brewing

3. Market overview

Characteristics of demand

It is stated by importers that the major factors affecting demand are price and supply fluctuations. Growing consumption of products that include gum Arabic would also have a positive effect on demand. Since 1991 cold weather, foliage attack by locusts and changes in export duties (in Sudan) on gum Arabic have reduced exudation and gum supplies coming to market. Also in 1993 much of the price increase was a direct result of an effort within the Sudan to privatize the gum Arabic industry, a move that led to both hoarding and reduced procurement of the gum. Another cause of concern for importers has been the erratic nature of the Sudanese supply. Although the Sudan is the major gum Arabic producer in the world..

This effect of the problems concerning the Sudanese gum Arabic can be seen in the following figures of gum Arabic SPOT prices. The SPOT prices include list prices of suppliers either on a New York or producing shipping point basis. The quotations are based on prices reported in the market or obtained from suppliers and other sources. They do not necessarily represent prices at which transactions have actually occurred. They do however give a good overview of the price development. Also the price for crude gum Arabic would be expected to be a little lower than for processed gum.

Table 2. SPOT prices for powdered and spray dried gum Arabic June 1990-April 1994 in $US per kg.
6/90 12/90 6/91 12/91 6/92 12/92 6/93 12/93 4/94
Powder High 3.63 4.41 3.96 3.96 8.26 7.05 7.16 8.81 6.72
Low 3.41 3.63 3.63 3.63 7.71 NA 7.05 NA 6.06
Spray dried High 5.07 7.71 4.52 4.52 8.81 7.71 8.23 10.46 8.23
Low 4.19 4.30 4.30 4.30 8.26 NA 7.71 NA 7.27
Source: Journal of Commerce June 1990-April 1994.
The effect of supply shortage after the poor growing season of 1991\92 can be clearly seen in the price fluctuation.

3.2. The US market
The US market shows a decline in total imports after 1990. However, with a product with an extended shelf-life this kind of trend should be considered normal and not alarming. Also the estimate for 1994, shows a significant growth in imports. The value of total gum Arabic imports follows the same path. No estimate for the total value of gum Arabic imports in 1994 was made. The value ($US 1000)/metric tonne shows a slight increase from 2.90 to 3.11 from 1989 to 1993. The import totals by quantity fluctuate with the value ($US 1000)/metric tonne. The lower the price the more is imported and vice versa.

Table 3. US total imports of gum Arabic by quantity and value 1989- 1994.
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994*
Quantity
metric tonnes 6 250 9 304 8 273 5 802 5 508 7 500
Value
$US millions 18.4 16.4 20.0 18.2 17.1 NA
Value
$US 1000/tonne 2.90 1.76 2.42 3.14 3.11 NA
*Estimate based on supplier survey.
Source: National Trade Data Bank. Department of Commerce.

The two most important exporters to the US since 1989 have been Sudan and France. These two countries have dominated the trade with a market share of 85-95%. France mostly re-exports processed gum Arabic after exporting crude gum Arabic mainly from African producing countries. United Kingdom holds the third place with a 3-4% share of the market (see appendices). As stated previously, the US imports mostly processed gum Arabic from Europe.

3.3. The EU market
The European market, measured in both quantity and value, is 3-4 times bigger than the US market. Similar to the US market, a declining trend after 1991 can be seen. However, it is to be noted that growth should occur in 1994. The value of total EU imports do not seem to have declined as sharply as the US imports. The EU market value was originally expressed in ECU and since the dollar has weakened this will explain some of the difference. All in all, the EU and the US markets seem to follow the same kind of trend.

Table 4. EU import totals of gum Arabic by quantity and value 1990- 1993.
1990 1991 1992 1993
Quantity
metric tonnes 27 631 32 118 27 387 23 202
Value
$US millions 65.9 75.8 78.9 75.7
Source: EUROSTAT. Monthly EU External Trade.

The most important European importers are France, United Kingdom and Germany. Together they import over 70% of gum Arabic to Europe. As was noted earlier France and United Kingdom are also the major exporters to the US. The major exporters are Sudan and Nigeria who are responsible for 60-70% of the gum Arabic exported to Europe. Chad, Cameroon and Mexico are also important exporters with a combined market share of a little over 20%.

4. Opportunities and threats gum Arabic
The two natural disadvantages of gum Arabic are (1)their irregularity of supply and consequently wide fluctuating prices, and (2)availability of close substitutes. Also inconsistency in quality can be seen as yet another threat. Substitutes such as modified starches, other gums and biosynthetic polysaccharides also threaten the market for gum Arabic.

Health conscious consumers demand natural ingredients and this offers gum Arabic tremendous potential. The particular properties of gum Arabic have been identified and utilized in food applications over many years. The use of gum Arabic can not be totally substituted by the use of other gums or starches because they do not perform the same functions. Gum Arabic has a long, safe history of use in foods and recent toxicological data has been assessed and approved.

The market data indicates that the European market would be easier to penetrate than the US market for exporting crude gum Arabic. This assumption is based on the fact that 40% of the gum Arabic imported to the US is processed. The US market is dominated by Sudan and France with a combined market share of over 90%. On the other hand the top five exporters have roughly an 80-85% market share of the EU market.

Table 5. Opportunities and threats for gum Arabic.
•  Gum Arabic is the oldest and best known gum. More than 1000 species and sub-species of the Acacia tree, that exude gum, exist.
•  Variations in quality exist.
•  Has been a major ingredient in the food industry for many years.
•  Subject to climatic changes, insect attacks.
•  No cartel exists, numerous producers/exporters in the world.
•  Other gums or starches can not totally substitute gum Arabic because they do not perform the same functions.
•  Irregularity of supply and consequently wide fluctuating prices.
•  Demand for natural ingredients by health conscious consumers.
•  Gum Arabic has a long, safe history of use in foods, recent toxicological data has been assessed and approved.
•  Advantages for food applications of gum Arabic: emulsification, acid stability, low viscosity at high concentration, adhesive and binding properties, good mouthfeel.
•  The market for use in non-food products predicted to grow ~ 4% by 1997 in Europe.