The Committee for Reorganizing the Retail (Groceries) Sector in the City of Abu Dhabi (the baqala project) has revealed today that more than 60% of the total retail space for groceries entitled to implement the new standards and specification has already been taken up, amounting to 32000 square meters. This comprises those who have already implemented the standards as well as those who are currently in the process of doing so.
The Committee pointed out that the positive effects of the change were evident not only in the city of Abu Dhabi but in the suburban areas as well. "The consumers are having a new and qualitatively different experience, a fact confirmed by the massive appreciation expressed through the social media," the statement said.
The Committee clarified that it was still receiving requests for registration for the changes from grocery owners who did not do so until the deadline of December 31 last year. "The massive interest shown of late by grocery owners prompted the committee to allow them to register until March 6, more than two months beyond the initial deadline" it added.
Mohamed Jalal Al Rayssi, Official Spokesperson for the Committee, said the grace period will allow those who lagged behind to register for the project before March 6. They will have to complete the renovation of their groceries no later than June 30 this year, a period of four months from the last day for registration. Those groceries that do not comply within this time frame will have to close shop," he stressed, adding that the grace period was given in consideration for the consumers' convenience and the late interest shown by grocery owners.
"The reforms in the retail sector were long overdue. It is integral to the Abu Dhabi Government's Vision 2030, as well as to the advanced food safety infrastructure being put in place by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA). We must note that most of the groceries functioned here for decades without any improvements whatsoever in their infrastructure. Their standards were very poor compared to all other services offered in the emirate. The storage and display of food items in most of them remained rather primitive and posed significant threats to food safety, in addition to arbitrary pricing practices that consumers had to put up with," Al Rayssi said.
"Our objective is primarily to protect the interests of the consumers. They deserve the best services, a transparent and uniform pricing mechanism and reliable and safe food. The government has done its best to support the retail sector to facilitate a hassle-free transition to the new system. Two pilot projects were done in Al Ma'moora and Hamdan Street to showcase the project. Though we had indicated at the launch of the project that the cost would be around AED 3000 ï¿½ 4000 per square meter, it has come down over time to AED 1700 ï¿½ 2500, thanks to the increase in the number of registered contractors, which now stands at around 107. A Technical Information Centre was functioning to offer free consultations on the required changes," he pointed out.
"The cost of refurbishing may have shot up for some beyond the levels mentioned above because they did not spend anything on improving the shops in decades. The project was finalized following a comprehensive survey and analysis of all aspects of the retail sector in the emirate. There was no way we could have allowed the retail sector to remain the way it was in contrast to the massive improvement in the food safety infrastructure across the food industry in the emirate. Ours is a free market economy. There are a new set of standards and specifications in effect now and they are in line with international best practices," he elaborated.
"We have a clear plan of action to see to it that the changes are implemented without causing inconvenience to the consumers. More people are coming forward now to implement the changes. New players are entering the market. The interests of the consumers are our top priority in all that we do," He concluded.