Fresh fruit and veg markets given boost.jpg

Fresh fruit and veg markets given boost


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LISBON CÂMARA has given a welcome tonic to Lisbon’s 29 municipal street markets in a bid to help them survive stiff competition from hypermarkets.

The city is one of the few European capitals left where traditional markets, with centuries of history characterised by a riot of colour, sounds and smells, still abound.

However, many famous markets such as those around the city’s Cais do Sodré area are losing clientele to the larger, cheaper and more convenient hypermarkets such as Pingo Doce, Continente, Feira Nova and Jumbo, which have popped up like mushrooms in the past decade.

Although the city’s main markets around Cais do Sodré have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, other smaller markets hidden away within Lisbon’s bairros have a run-down feel to them giving the distinct impression that their days are numbered.

The Câmara has come up with a solution it calls Progressive Extensions (Alargamento Progressivo), which means that municipal laws will be altered so that the markets can extend their opening hours and the days of the week licensed to operate. “The idea is to give the consumer more choice and flexibility as to when they can shop, especially given so many people are at work during the traditional hours when the markets are open,” said a spokesperson from the Câmara.

Investors needed

In Porto, for example, the Câmara has been actively encouraging Irish investors into the historic city centre Bolhão fresh fruit, flower and vegetable market to revamp the famous Victorian 1850s building, introducing shops, cafés, restaurants, offices and even housing as well as other attractions in what will be a 50 million euro Covent Garden-style facelift development.

Cash-strapped Câmaras say they simply don’t have the money to do it alone, but in Public-Private Partnerships and the right direct investment, key city markets in Lisbon can be regenerated and modernised while still maintaining tradition, attracting tourists and a new generation of shoppers alike.

Another new initiative is aimed at getting school children and young people on board to the importance of local markets and the nutritional value of their fresh, often organically produced goods. So far, 1,500 children have been taken on guided tours of the markets.

According to the Câmara, of Lisbon’s 29 markets, the most recent to have been restored is Ajuda which was re-launched in 2006 after a multimillion euro revamp. Others that are far older because of their mid 19th-century wrought iron architecture such as Santa Clara (1877) and Ribeira (1882) are historical references that if not preserved and invested in could come to represent the extinction of an important social, commercial and cultural urban heritage.

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