HOLDING a bottle of Roselle juice produced in Terengganu, Sudan’s Ambassador to Malaysia Mohamed Adam Ismail talks of wasted opportunities for his people.
The juice, he explains, is made from a natural ingredient karkade (extracted from a type of hibiscus flower) that is abundant in his homeland.
“Sudan produces the best quality karkade in the world, but our people have not been able to exploit this God-given natural gift.
“We are only able to sell the raw ingredient for other countries to process and they add value to it by producing juices and soft drinks,” he said, in an interview at his embassy office in Persiaran Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.
Looking at the bottle in his grasp, he expresses hope. “Malaysian companies have proven their expertise in the value-added field.
“We would like to have a joint venture with the Terengganu firm to produce Roselle juice and other by-products (in Sudan),” he adds.
Adam cites other natural ingredients that could make his nation of 37 million people rich. Gum Arabic extracted from branches of a certain tree is another ingredient used to make soft drinks, including popular brands like Coca-Cola
“Sudan produces over 85% of this ingredient, which is known to have certain healing abilities. We sell the ingredient at US$1,000 (RM3,800) per tonne, but German and Japanese firms process and market it at up to US$4,000 (RM15,200), said Adam who added that cotton is another raw material in abundance.
Dominated by the Nile and its tributaries, Sudan still has much to overcome economically since implementing IMF macro-economic reforms in 1997.
In 1999, the country began exporting crude oil and recorded its first trade surplus in the last quarter of that year. Current oil production is about 250,000 barrels a day, with Petronas playing a big role in exploration activities there.
Agricultural production remains Sudan’s most important sector, employing about 80% of the workforce.
Adverse weather, weak world agricultural prices and civil strife are among the problems faced in a country ruled by an alliance of the military and the National Congress Party.
In August 1998, Sudan hit the world headlines following US bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, which was suspected of producing nerve gas.
Having gained independence from Britain on Jan 1, 1946, Sudan remains in the bad books of the US, which maintains trade sanctions on the republic. Allegations linking Sudan to terror networks continue to linger and last week, the US Central Intelligence Agency listed it as one of the countries trying to acquire or expand secret arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.
Adam, who was posted here in June 1999, describes the latest CIA report as another piece of “dubious intelligence” like Operation Infinite Reach, which destroyed the pharmaceutical plant and killed and injured several of his countrymen.
“The US military action was based on a CIA report that the plant belonged to Osama bin Laden which produced empta to make deadly JX nerve gas.
“As it turned out, the plant was owned by someone else and was used to produce animal and human drugs as the Chemistry Department of Boston University and other independent labs have ascertained,” he explains.
Adam, who hosted a reception last Monday to commemorate the republic’s 47th Independence Day, claims that the situation is peaceful in his homeland with crime being kept under check.
“We look at Malaysia as a role model for us. We gained our independence a year earlier, but your country is much ahead of us in terms of development. “The Malaysian experience will be vital to Sudan’s development,” he said.