x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

End nears for Abu Dhabi old-style groceries

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority announced in May last year that all grocery owners in the city must renovate their premises.

Business partners Mohamed Haneefa, left, and Naheef Murikkin Kattil say they cannot afford to pay between Dh200,000 and Dh300,000 to bring Abu Backar Grocery in line with the new regulations and both will now return to India. Ravindranath K / The National
Business partners Mohamed Haneefa, left, and Naheef Murikkin Kattil say they cannot afford to pay between Dh200,000 and Dh300,000 to bring Abu Backar Grocery in line with the new regulations and both will now return to India. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The last day of 2012 will bring the shutters down on grocery shops not modernised in line with new requirements.

The owners of the city’s 1,300 groceries were told in May last year that they must renovate their premises, but as the deadline looms many are preparing to shup up shop because they cannot afford the changes.

Among them is Abu Backar grocery in Al Ittihad, which has supported two generations of Indian families.

Business partners Mohamed Haneefa and Naheef Murikkin Kattil cannot afford to pay up to Dh300,000 to modernise the shop and will now return to India.

The requirements include automatic doors, steel roofing, CCTV, a computerised till and lower, more accessible shelves.

“My family depends on this shop. I am here coming up to five years. Which job now? I don’t know. My family are in India. I send money to them. With no job, there is no money,” said Mr Kattil, 27.  “I don’t know what to do. I’m the eldest in the family.”

The business was set up by the two men’s fathers 35 years ago.

Mr Haneefa, 40, has been involved for two decades and supports three children in India.

“It’s too expensive,” he said. “This business is bread and butter back home. I have a big family in India.”

Afsal Nisar, 28, works near by and buys something from the shop every day. “I don’t know where I will go now,” he said.

“The majority of people who are grocery people are Indians. A lot of them have been here for about 30 years.

“A lot of shops will close. After December 31 the customers will have to go to supermarkets.

“There are groceries that have money for renovation but most of the shops will shut.”

Al Hadad Food Store in the Muroor Road area will close. The Indian owner cannot afford the Dh100,000-plus to make the necessary adjustments.

Shaju Thaikkttil delivers cigarettes to 180 Abu Dhabi groceries every week. Of these, he believes only 25 will renovate and remain open, and the rest will either quit or remain in the same premises and change what they sell.

“I think this is not a good thing. All shops have their own customers and do home delivery also,” he said.

Other businessmen are turning to bank loans to pay for the refurbishments and will shut their shops while the work is carried out.

Rashed Mulakkal, manager of Al Idah grocery near Muroor Road, will pay about Dh180,000 for the work.

“It’s a problem but what do you do? I follow the rules,” he said the Indian.

Muhammed Kunhi, owner of Malabar Grocery, near 15th Street, has taken out a bank loan in India for Dh150,000.

“I feel tension. There is a big interest problem at the bank,” he said.

Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority says the changes are needed to bring shops up to speed with global food safety procedures.

They are aimed at bringing about more uniformity in the retail sector and improving the standards of services stores offer to the consumers.

All shops that meet the requirements will be renamed Baqala, Arabic for grocery.

The authority declined to say if the deadline would be extended or if it knew how many stores would close.

Mohamed Jalal Al Reyaysa, director of communication and community service at the authority, said last month the changes were an important step towards achieving the vision in the city’s Plan Abu Dhabi 2030.

ecleland@thenational.ae