Used widely by international food and drink manufacturers, gum arabic is produced from acacia trees growing in the arid climatic conditions of the African gum belt.
In 1998 95 per cent of world exports came from three countries : Sudan (56 per cent), Chad (29 per cent) and Nigeria (10 per cent).
But according to reports this week, investors have identified the Ugandan region of Karamoja, dismissed in the past as too far south below the belt for gum arabic, with the potential to produce 20,000 tonnes.
US firm, the Atlantic Gum corporation is behind the project that steered efforts to start commercial exploitation of the product in Uganda, says the report in Ugandan daily newspaper, The Monitor.
The US is the largest market for gum arabic, for both processing and consumption.
At about $4,000 tonne, and pitching at the full potential, Uganda could earn $80 million a year on gum arabic exports; more than coffee, currently its leading commodity.
In addition to the beverage industry, acacia gum (E414 in the EU) is widely used in the food industry, in particular for confectionery industry where food makers favours its ability to delay or prevent sugar crystallisation and to emulsify fat.
Wherever film-forming and emulsifiying properties are needed - without affecting taste or viscosity - gum arabic can often be found. The emulsification properties of gum arabic are also used in various flavour emulsions.
The gum is derived from two acaciaspecies; Acacia senegal (about $3 a pound) and Acacia seyal, used extensively in the confectionery industry and costing about $1.50 per pound.
According to The Monitor, supplies of gum arabic from Uganda could come on line by as early as December 2005.