In Sudan, end of peanut exports plunges the sector into the unknown

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KHARTOUM | Rimaz Ahmed has been stunned since the sudden decision of the Sudanese Minister of Commerce to ban the export of raw peanuts, to replace it with that of more lucrative by-products. A transition for which the sector is not prepared.

“It’s a shock because we haven’t been warned. Overnight, we lost important markets, ”explains this sales manager for Abnaa Sayed Elobeid, one of Sudan’s main agricultural exporters.

The fifth largest peanut producer in the world with a 14% market share according to the United Nations, since April 1 Sudan has banned the export of nuts, which are the pride of the country. China and Indonesia were its main clients, and it was India that benefited from the Sudanese withdrawal, Ahmed said.

This flagship product in Sudan, like gum arabic, is so closely linked to the country that “peanut” is called “sudani” in Arabic.

Hard blow

The sudden end to foreign sales of this peanut is a blow to the Sudanese, who are emerging from 30 years of dictatorship with Omar al-Bashir – overthrown in the spring of 2019 under pressure from the streets – and international sanctions.

“It is as if France banned the export of wine overnight or if Italy stopped selling its spaghetti abroad”, laments Ms. Ahmed, who hung an advertisement now anachronistic on the wall of her office. praising, in English, peanuts “with the flavors of Sudan”.

In 2019, 1.5 million tonnes of peanuts were produced in Sudan and their export brought in $ 205.7 million (€ 175 million), according to the Sudanese Central Bank.

Sudanese Minister of Trade and Industry Madani Abbas Madani justified in a decree in early March the end of exports by the desire “to maximize the market value of peanuts and the added value of Sudanese products, in the light of climate change” .

Rather than exporting only raw peanuts, Mr. Madani wishes to develop the production of by-products such as peanut oil, peanut butter, cosmetics or detergents.

“Neither machines nor know-how”

Professionals wonder about the merits of the ban, and also whether it is indeed a decision shared by the whole government.

Faced with the outcry, Madani Abbas Madani assured that it was a “decision falling within the framework of government policy”.

“We agree in principle. It may be good for the country, but we are not prepared at all, we do not have the machines or the know-how. It will take time and, in the meantime, we have lost our big customers ”, regrets Ms. Ahmed.

“With its decision, Sudan shot itself in the foot. While it would be necessary to reduce the deficit of the trade balance, the minister took a decision which increases it, plague Izzeldin Malik, who directs the company of export Rubicon.

Sudan’s trade balance was in deficit of $ 4.7 billion in 2018.

Stopping exports is also likely to have serious consequences for Sudanese farmers even though many are not yet aware of the new regulations.

“I haven’t heard anything about exporting. I don’t know if my buyers sell my production locally or if they export it, ”says Khair Daoud, who lives in Ardashiva, a village 70 kilometers south of Khartoum.

Dressed in a white galabiya, this 31-year-old farmer digs around his peanut plants to loosen the leaves and facilitate irrigation.

“I have planted 30 feddans (12.6 hectares) of peanuts, if prices increase, next year I will plant 10 additional feddans otherwise I will fall back on Greek horns (okras), cotton or sorghum.”

Sudan grows peanuts either by irrigation in Gezira State and FAO, in the east, or by rainwater in Darfur, in the west, or Kordofan, in the south.

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