• Quality Control Systems of Gum Arabic in Sudan

      Al-Assaf, Saphwan; Eldigair, Hashim, Y. (University of Chester, 2018-11)
      Gum arabic is the oldest tree gum exudate, and has been in use since 4000 BC. Currently, it is used as an emulsifier (E414) in a number of processes, such as producing sweets and soft drinks. This study examines local practices such as tapping, collecting, transporting, sorting, and storing in various production areas in Sudan. Furthermore, it also investigates statistical differences in the key variables such as moisture content, optical rotation, ash content, viscosity, pH, colour Gardner index, colour Lovibond and tannin content in various production regions in Sudan during four seasons, namely 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. This study offers originality as the first investigation to combine labour practices related to quality control systems in a Sudanese context, using both primary and secondary data. Primary data were obtained from survey questionnaires (n=413 out of 800) distributed, giving a response rate of 52%, using chain-referral sampling among gum arabic farmers, managers, supervisors, and stakeholders. In addition to the questionnaires, open-ended (interview) questions were distributed to stakeholders and experts, by employing maximum variation sampling (n=15 out of 20 questions distributed, providing a response rate of 75%). Other primary data, namely, analytical and experimental data, were obtained from Nopec Quality Control Laboratory in Khartoum, and from the Hydrocolloids Research Centre at the University of Chester. Secondary data (national production) was obtained from the Sudan Customs Corporation via the Gum Arabic Board in Sudan. The findings of the survey questionnaires generally reveal that most workers tend to (i) work for relatively long time in the gum arabic industry, (ii) are knowledgeable about quality control systems, and (iii) aware about the best methods for maintaining product quality, collecting and storing gum arabic (r=-0.821). Specifically, the strongest correlation coefficient (p=0.001) were found between the worker’s age and the duration of working in the gum arabic industry (r=0.655). That is, the older respondents tend to be male while younger respondents tend to be female (r=-0.623). In addition, the majority of respondents (r=0.476) were knowledgeable about the production areas of gum arabic in Sudan as well as the location of the main auction market in Al Obeid. The findings from expert interviews indicate that there are both facilitative and hindrance factors that affect gum arabic development; these are related to infrastructure, technology, socio-economy, and relevant institution. The hindrance factors are, inter alia, the existence of relatively higher taxes, inefficient transportation, outdated technology and inconsistent quality control systems used by various gum arabic processing companies. Conversely, there are also facilitative factors such as financial assistance (the sheilla system) for farmers from banks, regular training, and methodical improvement of tapping through the use of modernised tools. The most significant factor is the agreement by all interviewees that better quality control systems should be a key to the development of this product therefore, allowing the suppliers to offer a quality product rather than a commodity. The results of secondary data reveal an increase in export trends from 2012 to 2018, indicating continuous growth in the industry and in particular for Acacia seyal compared to the previously held standard of Acacia Senegal. Finally, the findings of the analytical data reveal that key variables while differ across the various production season, the quality of the material from a given production area does not differ significantly. This is the major finding of this study whereby using reliable supply chain, traceability system and quality control measurements it would be possible to supply gum arabic with certain characteristics suitable for a given application. In conclusion, the findings are useful addition to our knowledge and potentially of commercial impact.