Economy & Industry

The gum used by the food industry

Sudan is the world’s largest producer of gum arabic. This is a natural resin which comes from the acacia trees growing across the central belt.

The gum can be used as a glue on stamps or in inks and paints. But it is most valued for its use in foods such as sweets and fizzy drinks.

A local word

The ‘arabic’ comes from a local word meaning ‘good’ or ‘transparent’.

The acacia tree is found in dry regions of the country such as Darfur and Kordofan. An estimated five million people (tappers and their families) depend on the money they earn each year from the gum.

Tapping of another kind

In the 1990s, another kind of ‘tapping’ began. Oil reserves were opened up in central Sudan and South Sudan. Oil became the main export, with around 500,000 barrels being produced each day.

Around three-quarters of the current oil comes from sites in South Sudan. However, most of the refineries, pipelines and ports are in the north. Sudan has agreed to carry oil from South Sudan in return for fees.


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The country hopes to increase oil production from its own sites and explore new reserves. This will be essential for its economy. The country has a huge debt of 38 billion dollars and the government has been trying to tackle this debt problem over the last ten years.

Agriculture is also important

Revenue from the crops grown in Sudan – especially cotton, peanuts and sugar – is also important to the economy. Much of the country’s manufacturing involves processing what is grown in the country.