x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Final countdown for Abu Dhabi groceries to put up or shut up

Of the 1,300 groceries operating in the capital last year, hundreds have closed with owners unable to afford upgrade costs. Now the deadline looms for those trying to survive.

Grocers such as Abdul Salam Manikoth have already made the decision to upgrade, but many more in Abu Dhabi face a deadline to survive. Sammy Dallal / The National
Grocers such as Abdul Salam Manikoth have already made the decision to upgrade, but many more in Abu Dhabi face a deadline to survive. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // Grocery owners who want to keep trading in the capital have until the end of today to register for the “baqala” project.

Hundreds of shops closed at the start of the year after failing to upgrade to meet new standards by the December 31 deadline, laid down by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.

A stay of execution was then granted and owners were told they had until today to register for renovations. They were given until the end of June to make the changes.

Abdul Kader, who owns Marawan grocery in Khalidiya, is planning to register his interest today.

But at 22 square metres, his shop is too small to become a baqala, so he can only make the changes if he is able to buy the shop next door.

“Next door is a ladies’ tailors but it’s for sale. If I can buy it, I will make the baqala. If not, I will change to another business – typewriting or printing,” the 43-year-old Indian said.

Kobir Ahmaed, 21, from Bangladesh, has worked for Mr Kader for 18 months. He will keep his job if the business changes but he would prefer it to remain a grocery.

“I have not worked in any other shop. I hope that the owner can buy the next-door shop,” he said.

A few blocks away, customers were taking in the changes at the recently renovated Taj Store.

It closed for a month for a Dh125,000 upgrade and reopened on Friday, worker Shafeeqe Koolikkad, from India, said.

“It’s all changed, it’s all new,” he added, as customers perused the new shelving, fridges and counter. There is also a new CCTV system.

Indian salon owner Veni Mohadas, who lives nearby, said: “It’s very clean and tidy. There is CCTV also. It’s good. I will come here more now.”

Moath Wahiedi, 26, from Pakistan, was passing by and going into the store for the first time. “It looks good. First of all it’s clean and the smell is good,” he said. “The rule changes are good because it is clean and you can find everything.”

The Government committee for regulating the grocery sector in Abu Dhabi city this week called upon owners to rush to register.

They can begin the process at the Technical Support office, at the Food Control Authority’s offices near Delma Street.

“The new grocery has already become a landmark of the city, offering superior services at global standards,” said Mohamed Jalal Al Rayssi, spokesman for the committee.

He added that a “two-way” conversation began with owners about the changes in 2011. They had the opportunity to attend meetings, ask questions and give feedback.

“The whole of 2012 was in their hands,” he said, and it was up to owners to make the decision to renovate.

Inspections will be carried out in July to ensure all groceries have been upgraded, Mr Al Rayssi said.

The changes, he added, were brought in after localised research, including finding out what shoppers wanted.

“We came up with these standards that fit in our environment in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “It’s not like bringing something from outside in different countries and putting it here.”

New requirements include proper air conditioning, a three-phase power supply, new shelving, an aluminium ceiling and new wall and ground ceramic tiles.

ecleland@thenational.ae