The decline in the production of the natural gum, also know as gum arabic, is an aftereffect of the insurgency in the states where it is being grown and produced, the Minister of State, Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, disclosed in Abuja on Tuesday.
“Distinguished audience, gum arabic production is on a decline mainly due to insurgency in its area of production,” he said.
Insecurity has become unrelenting in Northern Nigeria with thousands of civilians killed in the last few years.
The Boko Haram armed group, which began its military operations in 2009, and its breakaway Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) are active fighters in the region.
Gum arabic is the natural gum exuded by various species of the acacia tree. The main source of commercial gum arabic is acacia senegal L.willd.
It is a unique multifunctional food additive used to enhance flavour in confectionery products, as well as an emulsifier, stabiliser and clouding agent in beer and soft drinks.
Pharmaceutical Industries use the gum as a stabiliser for effusions and as a binder and coating for paints. In cosmetics, it is used as adhesive or facial mask, and powder to give a smooth feel to lotions, textile, paints, and lithographic industries.
Gum collection or gathering is a source of revenue in rural areas, as it generates employment for the youth and women. Also, it has huge foreign exchange potential for the nation.
“As at today, Nigeria is the fifth world producer instead of the second largest producer, which it was previously, after Sudan,” the minister said.
“The population of the now top four producers is less than half of the population of Nigeria and the available land area of all four is about 80 per cent of Nigeria. So why is Nigeria leading from behind?”
“Nigeria exports over 95 per cent of its gum arabic in raw form to Europe, Asia and United States of America, only five per cent is utilised locally,”
He said exporting the commodity instead of local processing causes huge losses in form of revenue and employment opportunities for the country.
Increasing Nigeria’s gum arabic production from its current status of about 23,040 metric tons by 20 per cent will create about 500,000 jobs estimated at $43 million additional income, he said.
He added that value addition through the processing of gum arabic will create additional $215 million, basically for youth and women in our rural communities.
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