The multi-million naira Gum Arabic plantations established in the three senatorial districts of Sokoto State have been abandoned, Daily Trust can report.
Gum Arabic is a commodity famed for its commercial value with great export potential and it is used in textile, matches, confectionaries, computers, soft drinks productions among others.
It is also used in the production of starch as well as for making ink when mixed with ground charcoal, just as those into cap washing business also require Gum Arabic to give the washed caps a glitter.
The minister of Agriculture not long ago said Nigeria earned $43 million from the export of Gum Arabic in 2016.
Sokoto is noted as one of the gum Arabic producing states in the country.
Our correspondent observed that the economic importance of the commodity might have informed a multimillion Gum Arabic project launched in the state over a dozen years ago.
In October 2002, the administration of Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa established a 100-hectare Gum Arabic plantation estimated at over N22 million at the Guadumi Forestry Reserve.
In August 2005, the phase 1 of the Gum Arabic plantation project was launched at Marnona in Wurno Local Government Area of the state.
A 100-hectare Gum Arabic plantation was established in each of the three senatorial zones of the state; one at Gidan Madi in Tangaza local government and another at Kambana, Shagari Local Government Area.
Daily Trust investigation revealed that the projects have since been suspended and as a result, Gum Arabic dealers in the state have to access the substantial quantities required from other states.
The chairman, Gum Arabic Traders Association in Sokoto State, Alhaji Tukur Abdullahi, said: “Most of the Gum Arabic we stock in Sokoto central market comes from Kebbi State mostly Gummi, Zaru, Daki Takwas and Gwalli villages. We get supply from some villages such as Dadin Kowa in Kebbe Local Government and Jabo town, in Tambuwal.”
He described Gum Arabic as a fast moving commodity and an export produce that remains at the forefront among Asian entrepreneurs owing to its multiple-purpose value.
The 50-year-old dealer, who has been in the Gum Arabic business for over 25 years, said agents come from China and India to purchase Gum Arabic from them.
“There are Chinese and Indian agents that come to Sokoto and make large purchases for their industrial needs. Locally people who engage in the production of ‘kayan mata’ (ointments for women), cap washing business patronize us,” he stated.
Alhaji Tukur said the commodity is very much available during the harmattan period, December-January, and gets scarce around July-December every year.
According to the chairman, Gum Arabic comes in different categories and according to grades. “This is because the types of trees or plants that produce it vary which gives its different colours and quality. Gum Arabic from Akwara tree gives grade I type of Gum Arabic which has greater market value while the Farar Kaye gives grade II type and Tsiriri tree provides grade III type of Gum Arabic,” he explained.
Exporters patronize the grade I type which comes from far away areas of Yobe and Maiduguri in Borno State, he stated.
A sack of Gum Arabic of grade I variety costs ₦N50,000. For grades II and III, a sack costs ₦N40,000 but when it gets scarce the price could rise, Tukur explained.
On why they cannot source all they need from Sokoto, he said: “The initial attempt by a previous civilian administration to boost Gum Arabic production failed because the project was given to politicians who did not give it the desired care and nurturing.”
“When the administration came up with the idea, it provided funds, seedlings and land for the launching of the Gum Arabic project. As usual, politicians hijacked the whole exercise and in the end, it completely failed without any tangible result hence our reliance on what we source from Kebbi, Yobe, Borno and some areas in Sokoto State. Right now, I cannot even tell you where such Gum Arabic projects were cited in Sokoto here,” he said.
Alhaji Tukur maintained that: “Had the government involved the association members during the Gum Arabic project launching, the story could have been different now.”
“Even when the Buhari administration came up with the idea of giving financial support to small/medium scale entrepreneurs, we were contacted, they collected our names and ₦500 naira from each member for registration but in the end, only four out of over 100 members got the ₦N50,000 support.”
Two Gum Arabic dealers, Alhaji Abu Dan Tsamiya and Alhaji Nasiru Mai Jirai added their voices to the call by the chairman for government to support the Gum Arabic business.
But the Director Forestry, Ministry of Environment, Sokoto State, Salisu Shehu, explained: “The Gum Arabic project which was initiated by the Bafarawa administration had three sites, one in each senatorial district. After five years, we were expected to start harvesting the produce but the yield was low.”
He recalled that only 10kg per hectare was recorded against the 50kg per hectare expected.
Now it has further dropped from 10kg to 5kg per hectare, he revealed.
Shehu said it was not certain what caused the low yield - whether the specie that was used or the environmental condition or other factors - but that the Forestry Research Institute in Ibadan is carrying out studies on it.
The director however said Gum Arabic trees are being used for shelter belt and that individuals also used it for fencing of farms.
The forestry director said it was planted in degraded areas to enrich the soil and used as fodder for livestock as well as erosion control. He revealed that they produced 10,000 -15,000 seedlings annually.