The development of the gum Arabic industry in Chad is a matter of a case study. From the position of a minority player in the global gum Arabic business in 1996, Chad by year 2000 has risen rapidly to become a major player running neck to neck with Nigeria in gum Arabic production and export. The rapid development of gum Arabic production in Chad calls for commendation. However, unlike Sudan, the gum Arabic business in Chad lacks substantial government policy support and coordination. Statutorily, the Ministry of Environment in Chad is responsible for the production of gum Arabic, while the Ministry of Commerce is responsible for commercial policy issues on gum Arabic.
During this mission, it was observed that there is no special government policy on gum Arabic production, trade or on any other commodity that may have aided the near geometric increase in the volume of gum Arabic production witnessed in Chad within just a period of four years. No proper export statistics was being kept for gum Arabic except the scanty data kept manually by Chadian Customs.
Cross boarder trade between Sudan and Chad on one hand and between Chad and Nigeria on the other hand made the compilation of production data very difficult. Suffice it to say that there is a yearly rapid increase in the production of gum Arabic in Chad.
The gum Arabic industry in Chad is private sector driven. Whereas there is no specific government policy framework or incentive on gum Arabic in Chad, the farmer groups, suppliers and exporters of gum Arabic in Chad are identifiable and organized. There are over fifty five organized farmer groups within the gum Arabic producing areas of Chad. There is a central trading market in Sanfil in N’djamena, capital of Chad where the gum Arabic traders are located. There is also only one gum Arabic traders association “Cooperative d’ Exploitation de la gomme arabique” situated in Sanfil, N’djamena. There is one National Association of the exporters of gum Arabic in Chad. The three associations working in cooperation drive the engine of development within the industry. However, the government through the Ministries of Environment and Commerce is in regular contact with the private organizations in the gum Arabic industry.
The production of gum Arabic in Chad is based almost entirely on wild trees in forests either owned communally, individually or by Government in reserved forests or parks. Gum Arabic is usually harvested by farmers in forests with little or no payments or taxes to local authorities and Governments. The growth of gum Arabic production in Chad has been unusually very rapid.
As shown in Table 1, Chad’s production grew by over 200% within a period of 5 years, from 1991-1995, against Nigeria’s growth rate of less than 50% and Sudan ‘negative growth of about – 30% within the same five year period.
Analysis of production (export) figure between 1996 and year 2000 (Table 9) also confirms a continued growth rate of Chadian gum Arabic production, though at a lower rate.
Even though production figures from various international, national and private sector institutions up to 2004 vary (Table 9), all the figures are in agreement with the rapid growth rate recorded between 1991 and 1995. Available statistics put together by private export company, SCCL Chad, estimated Chad’s gum Arabic production in year 2004 at 17,550mts. This figure is believed to be close to reality given the field information collected from farmers, suppliers, and other exporters of gum Arabic in Chad, which put the estimated production figure at 18,000mts. Given a good producer price and good climate and in the absence of other forms of natural disasters, the growth in the production of gum Arabic in Chad will continue in the years to come.
TABLE 9: Production (Export) of Gum Arabic in Chad 1994 to 2004.
SOURCE: CHAD CUSTOMS
SOURCE: SCCL CHAD
SOURCE: ITC GENEVA
Within the seven regions of Chad where gum Arabic is produced, exporters and the forestry department staff estimate that less than 50% of the gum Arabic resource is exploited. Local exporters and the forestry department estimate that Chad has potential to produce up to 45,000mts of gum Arabic annually at full production capacity. With increasingly yearly world demand and enhanced international prices, the production of gum Arabic in Chad will continue to be on the part of rapid increase.
Chad is a poor country with limited sources of income generation and foreign exchange earnings. Gum Arabic therefore presents an essential source of income especially for the rural dwellers. Unlike in Sudan, producer prices have been private sector driven. High farm gate prices have significantly contributed to the rapid growth rate of the production of gum Arabic in Chad.
Table shows the producer price levels as against the export prices over a period of 5 years (1999-2003).
From Table 10, it can also be seen that the average farm gate price of A. Seyal is about 44% while that of A. Senegal is about 64% of the export price. Although these price levels represent a remarkable improvement on the producer price levels in Sudan, the producer price level of A. Seyal still leaves room for improvement. A benchmark producer price level of 55% is recommended.
Like in Sudan, it was also observed that there is a positive correlation between the growth of producer price level and the growth of production in Chad.
TABLE: Producer Price Levels in US$ of A. Senegal (1999-2003)
Co -operative D’ Exploitation De La Gomme Arabic.SOURCE: Primary survey. Information from:
- Chad Gum Arabic Exports Association.
Marketing of Gum Arabic in Chad
The supply chain of gum Arabic in Chad is three pronged. At the primary level are the farmers who harvest the gums from the wild gum Arabic trees in the wild forest. These farmers sell the gums to the local agents of major suppliers who have stores/warehouses in N’djamena, capital of Chad. The suppliers in N’djamena in turn sell the gums to exporters in Chad and in Nigeria for shipment overseas.
In N’djamena there is only one central market for gum Arabic sale. This makes gum Arabic transaction in Chad easy. The market is located in Sanfil in the outskirts of N’djamena. All the suppliers in the market have one umbrella union called the “Cooperative de Exploitation de la Gomme Arabique. The cooperative estimates that about 75% of the gum Arabic produced in Chad pass through this market. The rest go direct to exporters.
Gum Arabic of Chad origin is sold in many countries. Principal buyers of Chadian gum Arabic include France, Germany, Britain and the USA.
The international prices of gum Arabic of Chadian origin are competitive and comparable to prices obtainable in Sudan and Nigeria. Because of the centralized position of the gum Arabic market in Chad and the consistency of the market, overseas buyers find it very convenient to deal with Chadian exporters.
There is no local processing gum Arabic plant in Chad. All gum Arabic produced in Chad is therefore exported overseas. In the last ten years, Chad has consistently exported all the gum Arabic produced in Chad. There is no form of buffer stock or strategic reserve of gum Arabic in the country.
Quality and Quality Control
Two major qualities of gum Arabic stand out in Chad; A. Senegal and A. Seyal In its pure and unadulterated form, the two grades listed above satisfy the minimum critical parameters in terms of viscosity, optical rotation, and colour.
Members of the supplier’s cooperative in N’djamena ensure that there is no adulteration of any of the above grades before they are sold to exporters. Exporters in turn carry out further physical tests to ensure that the various grades are not mixed to alter their chemical properties. The quality of Chadian gum Arabic is well accepted in the international market.
Internal consumption of gum Arabic in Chad both for traditional uses and for industrial uses is low.
The pattern of traditional uses for gum Arabic in Chad follows the same pattern as in Sudan, but to a lesser degree. Traditional applications include;
♦ Consumption of raw gum with the belief that it confers immunity to the body system as well as stops dysentery.
♦ Use of local gum Arabic for Arabic writing and indelible local printing.
Increase in the internal consumption and uses of gum Arabic in Chad will require a lot of enlightenment campaigns and advertisement.
Value Added Processing
There is only one value adding kibbling plant in Chad owned by SANIMEX SARL. It has a kibbling capacity of about 3000mts per annum. Gum Arabic kibbling is the most primary form of Value added processing of gum Arabic. There is no spray drying or milling plant for gum Arabic in Chad.
Unless gum Arabic is processed to obtain full benefit, prospects of poverty alleviation within the Sahel region using gum Arabic as source will continue to be a mirage to African nations within this region.