Stakeholders seek 4m seedling annually to boost gum arabic production

By Adelola Amihere

Stakeholders in the Gum Arabic sub sector have asked the Federal Government to scale up planting of Gum Arabic by planting four million seedlings per annum for the next ten years which they say if faithfully implemented, will give rise to an annual income of $32.4 million (N12.9 billion) to Nigeria in the form of foreign exchange from year 2035.

Gum Arabic is produced in 15 States within the Sahel region of Nigeria. It is used as an emulsifier, stabilizer and carrier in confectionary and food industries, as an encapsulating and jellifying agent in Pharmaceutical industries and as Stabilizer to improve shelve life in infant foods and snacks. It also acts as binder in lithographic and printing industries, acts as a glazing agent in ceramics as well as an antifoaming and stabilizer in the beer and wine industries among other uses.

Making a presentation on ‘Gum Arabic Development Strategy and Sustainability Plan 2021-2030’ at a two day Gum Arabic stakeholders meeting in Abuja recently, the President, National Association of Gum Arabic Producers, Processors and Exporters of Nigeria (NAGAPPEN), HRM Eze Okoro explained that Nigeria will start accruing foreign income from the project by 2025 when the first plantings will start producing.

Reeling out the potentials, he said, “At 90% survival rate and 300gms annual production per tree, this will add 10,800 tons of Gum Arabic or about US$27 million to our foreign exchange earnings every year from year 2035. This is in addition to the estimated existing annual National Production of between 20,000 to 40,000 tons currently under lockdown by insurgents. At the end of this project, Nigeria will be posting between 30,800 to 50,800 tons of Gum Arabic exports annually valued at between $92.4 million and $152.4 million.

He lamented that for an unbroken period of 60 years up to 2013, Nigeria remained the second world largest producer and exporter of Gum Arabic after Sudan but now occupies the 5th position: trailing behind Sudan, Chad, Senegal and Mali.

“In the ten-year period from 2004 t0 2013, Nigeria earned an average of US$94,232,148 every year from exports of Gum Arabic. This figure slumpedtoUS$3,444,608 in the last five years from 2014 – 2018. This figure represents only 3.33% of the annual average export earnings from this This rapidly declining production and export earning of not checked will spell doom for millions of people whose livelihood depends on Gum Arabic,” he said

On his part, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Hon Mustapha Shehuri regretted that Nigeria exports over 95 percent of its Gum Arabic in raw form to Europe, Asia and the United States while 5% is utilized locally.

“Not processing this commodity locally before export is causing Nigeria huge losses in form of revenue and employment opportunities. Increasing Nigeria’s Gum Arabic production from its current status of about 23,040 metric ton by 20 percent will create about 500,000 new jobs estimated at USD 43million additional income. While value addition through the processing will create additional USD 215m basically for youths and women in our rural communities. “he pointed

Earlier in her welcome address, a Director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mrs. Karima Babangida stated that there are plans in the 2021 budget to build a testing laboratory that will ensure quality assurance of the gum Arabic before export which hitherto has been a challenge for exporters.

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