The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, says the Federal Government will continue to encourage the production of improved seedlings of Gum Arabic.
The minister said this at the stakeholders’ forum and meeting on Review of the Gum Arabic Transformational Roadmap in Abuja on Tuesday.
He also said the Federal Government would also fund research and development programmes in Gum Arabic production, while conducting safety needs assessment of Gum Arabic cultivation and farmers.
The theme of the stakeholders’ forum is “Gum Arabic Development Strategy and Sustainability Plan 2021- 2030”.
The minister said that the gum was obtained as dry exudates from the stem and branches of acacia Senegal or acacia Sahel when the plant was milked.
Shehuri said that Gum Arabic was a unique multi-functional food addictive used to enhance flavour in confectionery products, adding that it was used as emulsifier, stabiliser and clouding agent in beer and soft drinks production.
He said that in pharmaceutical industries, the gum was used as stabiliser for emulsions and as binder and coating for tablets.
He also said that the gum was used in cosmetics as adhesive or facial masks and powder to give smooth feel to lotions, textile, paint and lithographic industries.
“Besides, Gum Arabic plantations have the potential to act as shelterbelts, thereby reducing the problems of desert encroachment, environmental degradation and poor soil nutrition, particularly in the Sudan-Sahellian ecological zones, which are around the north-eastern and north-western parts of Nigeria,” he said.
The minister noted that the production of Gum Arabic had declined considerably, mainly due to the Boko Haram insurgency in its areas of production.
“As at today, Nigeria is the 5th world producer of Gum Arabic, instead of the 2nd largest producer, which it was previously, after Sudan.
“The population of the current top four producers is less than half of the population of Nigeria, and the available land area of all four countries is equal to about 60 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass. So, why is Nigeria leading from behind?
“Nigeria exports over 95 per cent of its Gum Arabic in the raw form to Europe, Asia and the U.S.; only 5 per cent of the Gum Arabic is utilised locally. The failure to process this commodity locally is causing Nigeria huge losses in form of revenue and employment opportunities,” he said.
Shehuri said that increasing Nigeria’s Gum Arabic production from its current level of about 23,040 metric tons by 20 per cent would create about 500,000 new jobs and an estimated 43 million U.S. dollars in revenue.
Speaking at the event, Eze Chidume Okoro of Amano Obolia Kingdom, Ahiaza Mbaise Local Government in Imo, said that plans were underway to revive Gum Arabic production in the country.
Okoro, who is also the National President of Gum Arabic Producers, Processors and Exporters of Nigeria (NAGAPPEN), called on the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to collaborate with relevant agencies working in Gum Arabic sector to ensure a coordinated development of the sector.