Supply chain security group Rx-360 has warned that guar gum – a thickening agent that is widely used in the drug industry – is in short supply.
The group – which issued the warning late yesterday – said that while the reason for the shortage is not fully understood higher demand for the petrochemicals sector is likely to be an important factor as it has been on previous occasions.
“The Oil & Gas industry also uses Guar gum in hydraulic fracturing to prevent fluid loss. The increase in hydraulic fracturing has caused previous a previous raw material shortage in the pharmaceutical industry.”
Rx-360 also suggested that guar gum supplies have been further reduced by the ‘weak’ sugar harvest in Brazil, which it said is “contributing to the shortage, and ultimately, price volatility.
The organisation advised pharmaceutical manufacturers which use the gum – in applications such as tablet production, binding, preservation and stabilisation – contact their suppliers to assure stability.
It also suggested that manufacturers reappraise their guar gum supply chains for any potential vulnerabilities and conduct full analytical testing of any batches of the product that they receive.
The Rx-360 warning coincides with the launch of an investigation by Forward Markets Commission (FMC) into allegations of guar gum price fixing by Indian manufacturers, which supply around 97 per cent of the global market.
According to a report in yesterday’s Business Standard the FMC investigation follows complaints from industry stakeholders about the price of guar gum in India – which has increased from INR8,300per 100kg in April 2011 to INR23,000 per 100kg in December.
FMC chairman Ramesh Abhishek told the paper: “We have sent teams to leading trading centres across the country [in — Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh] to check traders’ accounts. The teams are selected in coordination with exchange officials.”
Guar gum suppliers are not just a concern for the pharmaceutical sector. In September Euromonitor analysts Diana Cowland told in-Pharmatechnologist.com’s sister publication FoodNavigator.com that prices will continue to rise and food manufacturers may have to find alternatives.