There has been substantial decrease in prices of food commodities in Qatar and in the international market, compared to the last year, thanks to a good harvest and lower transport cost, said Mohamed Althaf, Director of Lulu Group International.
“According to the global index, commodity prices have fallen substantially and naturally the price reduction was passed on to the food items showcased in the retail markets,” said Althaf, in an exclusive interview with The Peninsula.
Commodities which were seeing a significant fall in price include sugar, oil, milk powder among others. “In the past two years and this year too, there was no weather disturbance like heat wave and drought that took place in exporting countries in the past.” He added.
He notes that India also had a good monsoon “so this year we also expect more agricultural production and eventually prices will fall”.
“Following the instruction of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, Lulu Hyper Markets, operating in Qatar, have extended the closing hours from midnight to 2am. Now they will remain open from 8am to 2am without a break through the holy month of Ramadan,” he said, adding that Lulu faced tremendous pressure during ten days — five days before start of Ramadan and first five days of Ramadan in which customers used to undertake 40 percent of Ramadan shopping.
“We have enough stock for Ramadan and are doing our best to keep the prices stable and this is also the requirement of the Ministry.” To a question on long waiting time at cash counters, he said Lulu was working to introduce a new technology to speed up the scanning.
“To provide more modern varieties and better brands of dresses, Lulu plans to introduce “Rio” brand — a European-style fashion at the best prices.”
He said that Lulu was focusing on backward-integration to ensure food supply and best prices of the products “as we are operating in a country like Qatar that depends more than 80percent for food on imports.”
Lulu is also outsourcing to 24 countries including Europe, Africa and Asia and had its own factories and food processing units in exporting countries.
Althaf added there is big logistic area measuring more than 10,000 sqm in Qatar to ensure continuous flow of stocks. “We also have big warehouses in free economic zones in GCC countries to ensure uninterrupted supply.”
In order to get prices that were competitive, Lulu used to explore new markets to import food and non-food items.
“For example, we have been importing from Holland, then went to Spain where we found better quality and best prices.”
As per its expansion strategy Lulu was opening at least one or two new markets every year. “Now we are thinking of going to Belgium.”
Althaf added that to provide fresh agricultural produce, Lulu was undertaking contract farming in many places in India and other nations.