Acotanc: Gum Arabic--A Tree Crop for Arid Lands

Gum Arabic--A Tree Crop for Arid Lands


Paul Vantomme

E-mail: [email protected]

Organization: UN Food and Agriculture Organization
Forest Product Division
Wood and Non-wood Products Utilization Branch
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39-06-570-55618
E-mail: [email protected]
Home Page:

Gum Arabic is an important ingredient used in the food industry throughout the world. Production of the raw materials is primarily done in arid lands across Africa.


  • Water-soluble gum mainly used in food industry
  • From trees of the genus Acacia
    • A. senegal and A. seyal
  • Almost all is of African origin (Sudan)
  • international trade of 40.000 tonnes/year
    • 4% of world hydrocolloids market (starch)
    • unit value of US$ 2 -5/kg

Non-Wood Forest Products: Issues

  • Dynamics of NWFP
    • All "crops" once were "NWFP"
  • Domestication of NWFP and related issues
    • technical, economical, social, environmental
  • NWFP production/ interaction with agricultural crop/ grazing systems
    • NWFP as a by-/co-product of agricultural crops/agroforestry

Main characteristics of NWFP

  • Wild
  • Local use
  • Products for basic needs
  • Informal sector

Characteristics of Cultivated Production

  • Cultivated
  • International use
  • Luxury goods
  • Formal sector
The gum is exuded from trunks, branches and twigs


  • Lack of awareness (except in Sudan)
  • Lack of institutional and policy support
  • Lack of information on resource availability
  • Irregular supply and product quality
  • Use of product unknown outside the region of origin
  • Risk of 'boom and burst cycle'
Primary cleaning and grading of gum arabic at the Gum Arabic Co. depot, El Obeid, Sudan (Photo: J.J.W. Copper)
Final inspection of mechanically cleaned gum arabic at the Gum Arabic Co. depot, El Obeid, Sudan (Photo: J.J.W. Copper)


  • Products of "rural poor" (+ rural employment)
  • Local knowledge
  • Less-destructive exploitation
  • Low capital investment and technology
  • Low volume (high value) products
  • Market niches:
    • "Bio-products"--Organic gum (Chad)
    • Fair trade