Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi will soon get a new wholesale food market that will boost local farming and promote national food security.

The regional food and logistics hub will span three-and-a-half square kilometres, and will be located in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (KIZAD). It is being built by the Abu Dhabi Ports Group (AD Ports) and UAE-based conglomerate Ghassan Aboud Group, in collaboration with Rungis, the marketplace in Paris famous for being the largest food wholesale market in the world.

Abdullah Al Hameli, head of AD Port’s Economic Cities and Freezone Cluster, told Gulf News on the sidelines of a press conference following the facility’s official groundbreaking ceremony that the food hub is expected to become operational by the end of the year.

Food security

Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, managing director and group chief executive officer at AD Ports, said the facility would support the UAE’s efforts to top the Global Food Security Index by 2051.

The hub will facilitate trade across proteins, seafood, pulses, rice, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, dry foods and fresh flowers. The surrounding ecosystem will feature trading pavilions, logistics services, cold storage, warehouse facilities, waste recycling and critical government services and other amenities required for these sectors.

20,000 jobs

The development will also go on to create nearly 20,000 jobs over the next five years, added Ghassan Aboud, founder and chairman of the Ghassan Aboud Group.

Work on the project began in 2019. When operational, it will have a unique name to promote recognition, Al Hameli confirmed.

“Four warehouses spanning 80,000 square metres are already more than 50 per cent complete, with further expansion to be undertaken [as the need arises],” he added.

Promote local farming

Modelled on the Rungis International Market in Paris, one of the main roles of the hub will be to promote local farmers with access to markets.

“Food hubs like this secure [food] supplies for numerous reasons. There is a large storage component on site. Once we introduce many more suppliers by making it easy for [them] to deliver food into a region, then [there is a] diversification of supply and food security. Very importantly, as this country grows its agriculture sector, a platform like this will provide the farming community with access to markets. One of the difficulties for food producers [occurs when] they cannot find a market, so they invest their energy [and resources] in something else. A platform like this [therefore] not only grows markets but also enriches them,” added Graham Sanders, chief executive officer of special projects at the Ghassan Aboud Group.

Wholesale food markets

Supported by the integrated trade and logistic platforms available at KIZAD, the hub’s location near the Khalifa Port should also enable connectivity via sea, air, road and eventually rail.

While the development is yet to invite interest from food companies and wholesalers, officials explained that the Parisian Rungis market houses 1,200 companies at present, and serves 18 million consumers. A similar market in Thailand, on the other hand, houses 4,000 companies.

Need for wholesale

“We hope to replicate the success of Rungis, and how it serves communities [in Paris]. Through this, we can also contribute to the UAE’s food security,” Al Hameli added.

Stephane Layani, chairman and chief executive officer at Rungis, said challenges seen during the COVID-19 crisis “call for supply chain management in which wholesale markets play a strategic role”.

“Our ambition is to create a network of wholesale markets able to connect with each other in a very unique global network that will provide tremendous strength to food supply chain and ensure critical food security. With our support and the leadership of our partners [like AD Ports], the development of this new generation of infrastructure in Abu Dhabi will be possible,” he added.

View the full article on: Gulf News