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Tom Joyce



Convenience drives growth in Middle East

Dubai-based NRTC has added a fresh-cut division, banana coldstore and new retail outlets as its expansion continues

Convenience drives growth in Middle East

NRTC's directors lay out the company's future expansion plans to the Dubai Municipality's Hussain Nasser Lootah

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Nassar Al Rafaee Fruit & Vegetables Trading (NRTC) has developed over the past forty-plus years into one of the UAE’s leading importers of fresh produce. Its success lies in its ability to evolve, responding to new market needs as quickly as possible.

Discover new opportunities in the Middle East fresh produce business at Fruitnet Forum Middle East 2017

Recently, for example, NRTC has started a new division producing packaged fresh-cut salads for supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.

“Our customers were asking for fresh-cut, which we were buying from other companies, so we decided instead to do it ourselves, using our own machines, labels and packaging,” says import purchase coordinator Shihad Aboobacker. “Trends are changing. Consumers want to save time, so convenience is very important. Packaged salads and fresh-cut fruit are definitely part of this trend. We’ve been doing this since September 2016. It has been a challenge because we previously didn’t have such a facility, but our customers are satisfied with the quality.”

In 2016, the company also opened a new coldstore in Nad Al Hammar with a particular focus on bananas. “By the end of 2017, we will be buying bananas direct from Ecuador and the Philippines,” says Aboobacker. “Previously, we have only bought from other companies on the market. We also get some bananas from India, which we re-export to Afghanistan.”

Like a number of Dubai-based companies, NRTC has elected to open its own retail stores, 23 so far, under the name Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society, which it supplies itself, with both local and imported produce.

“The UAE is growing well for local vegetables, especially Abu Dhabi,” says Aboobacker. “We buy from local suppliers, especially cucumbers, cauliflowers, and potatoes. Our main imports come from the Gulf, including vegetables from Saudi Arabia and Oman and various fruits from Syria, as well as from European countries like Spain, France, the Netherlands and, more recently, Greece.”

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