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Farmers in Sudan fill Western demand for ubiquitous gum arabic

Business is booming in the western Sudanese town of En Nahud, thanks to rising global demand for an edible product of acacia trees that's used in soft drinks, confectionery and postage stamps

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Gum arabic is seen on an acacia trees in the western Sudanese town of El-Nahud, in the main farming state of North Kordofan, Dec. 18, 2012.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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A farmer collects gum arabic from an acacia tree. Business is booming in the area thanks to rising global demand for gum arabic, a natural and edible gum taken from acacia trees growing in the area.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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A farmer carries collected gum arabic, which is used as an emulsifier to prevent sugar from crystallizing in fizzy drinks, as a thickener in confectionery products and as a binder for drugs, cosmetics and postage stamps.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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The production of gum arabic is a rare export success story for conflict- and poverty-plagued Sudan.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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Because gum arabic is so important to the soft drinks industry and other products, the United States has exempted it from a broad trade embargo imposed by Washington in 1997 over Sudan’s human rights record.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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A farmer collects gum arabic. Sudan’s association of gum arabic producers estimates that farmers will produce up to 80,000 tonnes of gum arabic in the 2012-2013 season, double the previous year’s total.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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Workers prepare gum arabic for export at a company in the town of El-Obeid, North Kordofan, Dec. 17, 2012. A Sudanese firm, one of many newcomers since the government ended a state monopoly on the business in 2009, is building a plant to refine and clean the gum arabic so it can fetch higher prices.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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Workers prepare gum arabic for export in El-Obeid. Gum arabic is produced in Sudan’s savannah belt, which stretches from the western border with Chad to Ethiopia in the east.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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Traders attend a gum arabic auction inside the El-Nahud market in North Kordofan, Dec. 18, 2012.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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A worker stands next to sacks of gum arabic ready for export in El-Obeid. Sudan earned $81.8-million (U.S.) from exporting 45,633 tonnes of gum arabic in 2011, according to the latest central bank data.

MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH/REUTERS

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