Vegetables fresh from Qatari farms were available literally at throwaway prices at the exclusive market for local produce that was formally opened near Umm Salal yesterday.
More than 20 vegetables — some of different varieties — were available at the stalls at such unbelievably low prices that the stall operators said they were confident they would give the Central Market a run for its money.
The rates of nearly all the vegetables were 30 to 40 percent lower than the prices prevailing at the Central Market. For example, a seven-kilo box of cucumber was selling for an incredible QR11.
Tomato, the demand for which is quite high since it is used not only in salads but also in nearly all curry preparations in most Arab and Asian homes, was being sold literally for a song — a seven-kilo box for QR15.
“It’s unbelievable,” said a Qatari customer, of the prices, as he snapped up large quantities of fresh vegetables, which he said he hoped would last in his large household for a week.
He said he wouldn’t be visiting the Central Market any more. “The prices there are quite high as compared to this new market,” said the Qatari, who didn’t want his name in print.
Middle and lower-end restaurateurs are sure to patronise the new market because of the fresh produce and the lucrative prices, said a stall operator.
There are 22 stalls, all numbered, at the newly-opened market, called Al Mazrouah Yard, which has been built by the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with Hassad Food Company, and is run by the latter.
There are 22 farmhouses in the country that grow vegetables (mainly from October to June), and each of them has been allotted a stall on the condition that their stall must operate on all the three days a week the market will be open.
Hassad Food Company has set up two stalls at the market exclusively selling imported fruits (fruits are not grown in Qatar) so that those visiting the market to buy vegetables need not go to the Central Market to buy fruits, officials said.
The market will function on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7am to 7pm, and the farms have to bring their produce to the market latest by 6.30am.
Local growers had long been complaining that they were forced to take their produce to the Central Market and auction stocks to middlemen who manipulated the prices to their benefit.
No auctions are held at the new market and the growers can sell their produce directly to consumers. As for pricing, it is mandatory for them to sell at or below the rates fixed by the government for the Central Market.
It may be recalled that the Consumer Protection Department of the Ministry of Business and Trade had intervened early last year after increasing public complaints about auctioneers at the Central Market manipulating prices, and began fixing the retail as well as wholesale rates for fresh vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. These rates will be made known to sellers at the Al Mazrouah Yard on all the three days they would be open for business, and they will have to sell their produce either at those prices or below them. The Yard is some 22km north of Doha, about two kilometres off the Northern Expressway, also called Al Shamal Expressway, and located near Umm Salal Sports Club.
People working at the stalls are employees of their respective farmhouses and they, as well as the porters working in the market, have to be registered with the Ministry of Environment’s agricultural affairs department.
A source told this newspaper that the Qatar Meat and Livestock Company (Mawashi) would soon be setting up shop nearby, which would attract more buyers to the market.
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