In Iraq’s Mosul, a wholesale market revives trade legacy

In Iraq’s Mosul, a wholesale market revives trade legacy
An Iraqi salesman waits for customers at the entrance of a shop at the Al-Bursa wholesale market in Mosul. The city has been a commercial hub for centuries. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 06 December 2020

In Iraq’s Mosul, a wholesale market revives trade legacy

In Iraq’s Mosul, a wholesale market revives trade legacy
  • Even after the guns fell silent, many families hesitated to return as the city lacked services

MOSUL: Mountains of kitchen supplies, back-to-back butchers: the historic wholesale market in Iraq’s Mosul is battling the odds — from extremists to epidemic — to revive the city’s reputation as a trading hub.

The northern city was a commercial hub for centuries, strategically located along transport routes linking Baghdad to the south, Syria to the west, Turkey further north and Iran in the east.

Thirty years ago, Mosul opened a bulk market known as “Al-Bursa,” whose shops sold food, homeware and other goods directly to consumers as well as to smaller shops.

“The market raked in around $12 million every month,” said economist Mohammad Naef, a native of Mosul.

But those golden days came to a screeching halt in 2014, when the Daesh group began a brutal reign over Mosul that ended in 2017 after months of fierce fighting.

West Mosul, where Al-Bursa lies, was left in ruins — but its entrepreneurial residents have worked hard to revive it.

The first to return was young Abdallah Mahmud, 27, who sells cleaning supplies and is proud of Al-Bursa’s heritage. “The Bursa opened in 1990 and as the years went by, these simple little shops became the most important market in the whole province,” he said.

Of the 500 shops there in 2014, around 300 have already reopened with individual financing, he said.

The level of trade has made an impressive recovery but has yet to reach previous levels.

“Today, Al-Bursa’s monthly transactions cap at between 8 to 10 million, as many businessmen fled and never came back,” said Naef.

Mosul and the broader Nineveh province saw the highest rates of displacement during the war against Daesh.

Even after the guns fell silent, many families hesitated to return as large parts of the city still lacked key services including water, electricity or schools.

Al-Bursa represents a return to normalcy.

“Residents started to return, and it helped bring life back to the whole area,” said Obeida Al-Aysha, another 27-year-old trader who frequents the market.

On any given morning, shoppers flood Al-Bursa on foot, in cars or by motorcycle to pick up everything from children’s toys to coffee or freshly ground spices.

Customers say it is a one-stop-shop for all their needs, but wholesalers find it convenient, too.

“It saves me crazy amounts of time and tons of energy. Before, I had to go sell at each of the little markets in the towns outside of Mosul,” said farmer Khalaf Oweid.

“Now, I come here early in the morning and the owners of the little shops all come to me to stock their own stalls. I don’t have to put myself out like before.”

Yunes Abed, 50, shops at Al-Bursa to stock his food store in the city’s west.

“I can find everything here, but some shop-owners still haven’t returned,” Abed said, adding they were hoping to be compensated for assets lost in the war.

Mosul’s residents have applied for compensation from the government for homes, cars and storefronts destroyed in fighting, but few have been reimbursed in three years. Indeed, some 200 of Al-Bursa’s original shops remain abandoned, their metal doors still blown off and pockmarked walls tagged with graffiti.

“Why this destruction?” reads one message scrawled in black on a collapsed concrete beam near Al-Bursa.

Shopkeepers are also struggling to compete with cheaper, mass-produced imports from Iraq’s neighbors, including Turkey.

Daesh’s takeover of Mosul and surrounding farmland in 2014 cut off farmers and local producers from the Iraqi market, creating a gap that Turkish goods swiftly filled.

“About 90 percent of the products available now at Al-Bursa are imported,” estimated one of the district’s businessmen, 42-year-old Ahmad Al-Shammary.

And, of course, there is the economic slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus and the collapse in oil prices, which slashed the state’s monthly revenues.

With government coffers drained, Iraq’s 4 million public sector workers have seen wages delayed by weeks at a time.


Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021
Updated 57 min 5 sec ago

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021

Sakani housing program served 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021
  • Sakani beat target of 51,000 familes in Q1
  • Sakani announces launch of home finance app

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Sakani program helped 70,000 families in the first quarter of 2021, surpassing its target of serving 51,000 families.

Sakani was formed in 2017 by the Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund with the aim of facilitating home ownership in the Kingdom through the creation of new housing stock, allocating plots and homes to nationals and financing their purchase. It has a goal of reaching 70% home ownership by 2030.

Sakani revealed the data at an event in Riyadh on Thursday where it announced the launch of an online home finance app, SPA reported.

The program aims to serve 220,000 Saudi families this year, through the creation of 50,000 housing units, facilitating the reservation of 30,000 residential land plots and arranging 140,000 real estate loans, said CEO Marwan Zawawi.

More than 66,000 financing contracts were signed in the first quarter of 2021, supported by SR40 billion, a 23 percent increase compared to the same period of 2020. This brings the total number of families benefiting from the subsidized mortgage since its inception in mid-2017 until the end of the first quarter of 2021, to more than 487,000 families in various regions of the Kingdom, said Mansour bin Madi, general supervisor of the Real Estate Development Fund.

Sakani has enabled more than 350 thousand families to own homes to date, Bin Madi said.

About 178 infrastructure projects covering 244 million square meters have been developed at a cost of more than SR8 billion, said National Housing Company CEO Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Bati.

“In 2017, housing options under construction were limited, but now developers are racing to obtain licenses,” said General Supervisor of Real Estate Development Deputyship at the Ministry of Housing, Sultan Al-Sheikh. “Reservation of residential units on new developments is often complete within a few days and in some cases hours.”


Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes
Updated 16 April 2021

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes

Oil rises above $67 in fifth day of gains on demand hopes
  • Brent on track for weekly gain of about 7%
  • U.S., China economic recoveries bolster sentiment

LONDON: Oil rose above $67 a barrel on Friday, gaining for a fifth session, as a stronger demand outlook and signs of economic recovery in China and the United States offset rising COVID-19 infections in some other major economies.
China’s first-quarter gross domestic product jumped 18.3% year on year, official data showed on Friday. On Thursday figures showed a rise in US retail sales and a drop in unemployment claims.
“Given the improving outlook for the world’s two biggest economies, there is little chance of the market’s feel-good glow being extinguished any time soon,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
Brent crude rose 26 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $67.20 a barrel by 0950 GMT, heading for a weekly gain of about 7 percent. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude added 16 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $63.62.
New US sanctions imposed on Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers, over alleged election interference and hacking could also support prices.
“Though they do not affect the oil sector directly, they could lead to higher financing costs and general uncertainty in trade with Russia,” said Eugen Weinberg of Commerzbank.
Helping the rally this week, the International Energy Agency and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) both made upward revisions to oil demand growth forecasts for 2021.
Figures on Wednesday also showed US crude inventories fell by 5.9 million barrels.
Demand hopes offset concern about rising coronavirus cases in other big economies. India’s infection rate hit a record high while Germany’s chancellor on Friday said a third wave of the virus has the country in its grip.
Oil has recovered from pandemic-induced lows last year, helped by record cuts to oil output by OPEC and its allies, a group known as OPEC+.
Some of the OPEC+ cuts will be eased from May, with the group meeting on April 28 to consider further tweaks to the supply pact.


Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses
Updated 16 April 2021

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses

Ramadan harvest begins in Saudi Arabia’s city of roses
  • Smallest vials sell for SR400 ($106).
  • Harvest falls during Ramadan this year

TAIF: Every spring, roses bloom in the western Saudi city of Taif, turning pockets of the Kingdom’s vast desert landscape a vivid and fragrant pink.
In April, they are harvested for the essential oil used to cleanse the outer walls of the sacred Kaaba in Makkah.
This year, the harvest falls during Ramadan.
Workers at the Bin Salman farm tend rose bushes and pick tens of thousands of flowers each day to produce rose water and oil, also prized components in the cosmetic and culinary industries.
The perfumed oil has become popular among the millions of Muslims who visit the Kingdom every year for pilgrimages.
Patterns of plants and flowers have long been part of Islamic art.
Known as the city of roses, with approximately 300 million blooms every year, Taif has more than 800 flower farms, many of which have opened their doors to visitors.
While workers pick flowers in the fields, others labor in sheds, filling and weighing baskets by hand.
The flowers are then boiled and distilled.
“We start boiling the roses on high heat until they are almost evaporated, and this takes around 30 to 35 minutes,” Khalaf Al-Tuweiri, who owns the Bin Salman farm, told AFP.
“After that we lower the heat for around 15 to 30 minutes until the distilling process starts, which lasts for eight hours.”
Once the oil floats to the top of the glass jars, the extraction process begins.
The oil is then extracted with a large syringe to fill different-sized vials, the smallest going for SR400 ($106).


Binladin International carries out largest debt restructuring in the region

Binladin International carries out largest debt restructuring in the region
Updated 16 April 2021

Binladin International carries out largest debt restructuring in the region

Binladin International carries out largest debt restructuring in the region
  • As much as 75% of Binladin's debts are held by Saudi banks
  • Formal agreement with creditors may be reached by end June

RIYADH: Saudi Binladin International Holding is carrying out the largest debt restructuring in the Middle East, close to SR33 billion ($8.7 billion), with as much as 75 percent involving Saudi banks, said CEO Khalid Al Gwaiz on Thursday.
The company has obtained principal approvals from creditors for the debt restructuring and hopes to reach a formal agreement with them by the end of June and a final agreement by September, Al Gwaiz told Al Arabiya.
Binladin has an integrated transformation program that includes budget structuring and changes to its business model with the aim of helping it cope with recent developments in the market, he said.
The regional construction sector has been hit hard by the weakening of oil prices since 2014 and the associated decline in the real estate sector which has plunged some of the industry’s biggest names into financial distress.
Binladin has identified about SR1 trillion of opportunities in the Kingdom’s construction market linked to huge government projects that will allow it to pay creditors, Al Gwaiz said.


Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified

Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified
Updated 16 April 2021

Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified

Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified
  • Insurer says it made a generous offer on April 12
  • Crew of Ever Given remains on board ship

RIYADH: The insurance company for the Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week in March, said it was disappointed by the court order to detain the vessel until $900 million compensation is paid after it had already made a generous offer to settle the claim.

The offer to the Suez Canal Authority was made in cooperation with the Japanese company that owns the ship on April 12th, Al Arabiya reported. However, the ship, its cargo and crew are being held until an agreement is reached, said the insurance company, UK Protection and Indemnity Club.

The Economic Court in Ismailia, Egypt, approved a request submitted by the Suez Canal Authority on Monday, to seize on the ship until $900 million is paid to cover the cost of freeing the ship and the disruption to traffic on the canal.

The insurer described the figure as “huge” and unjustified and said it is working with all concerned parties to ensure the release of the ship, its cargo and 25-person crew.

The Ever Given, currently in the Great Bitter Lake region, will move to Port Said for further examination, the insurance company said.