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Fire Burns Down Part of World's Biggest Produce Market

Food & Wine 9/26/2022 Jelisa Castrodale

Andia / Alamy Stock Photo © Provided by Food & Wine Andia / Alamy Stock Photo

On Sunday afternoon, a fire started in one of the massive fruit and vegetable warehouses at the Rungis International Market in the southern suburbs of Paris. The billowing smoke from the blaze was visible for miles, and it took a crew of over 100 firefighters and 30 fire engines to extinguish the fire.

According to the Associated Press, no one was injured in the incident, and it was contained to a single warehouse operated by fruit and vegetable wholesaler Les Halles Mandar. The building, which covered more than 8,000 square meters, was completely destroyed. (To put its size in perspective, a football field is around 5,350 square meters.)

In a statement, Stéphane Layani, the President of the Rungis International Market, thanked the members of their Paris Fire Brigade for their courage, and confirmed that there will be an investigation into the cause of the fire.

"I would like to express my full solidarity and support for Les Halles Mandar, hard hit by this fire," he wrote. "The destruction of this warehouse saddens me deeply. Even if the Rungis Market will resume its activities tomorrow, when a Market operator is the victim of a tragedy of this nature, it is the entire Market that is affected to its heart."

Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP via Getty Images © Provided by Food & Wine Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP via Getty Images

Les Halles Mandar wrote on LinkedIn that 213 employees worked in the warehouse every day. "The employees of the Mandar Group are in shock because it is the heart of the historical activity of the company that has gone up in smoke," the post read. "As the employees have expressed it: 'It is our house that has burned down.'"

Shaoul Abramczyk, the head of Les Halles Mandar, told AFP that the company would be (understandably) unable to fulfill any orders "from Monday and for several days."

The Rungis Market is one of the world's biggest wholesale markets, employing more than 12,000 people and covering more than 550 acres. (And to put that into perspective, it's bigger than the entire country of Monaco.) According to Explore France, Rungis supplies 35 percent of the meat, 45 percent of the fruit and vegetables, and 50 percent of the seafood to the entire city of Paris.

The size of the market — and the number of other longtime wholesalers that are established on the premises — could make it more difficult for Les Halles Mandar to rebuild. "I've known these people for 30 years and sympathize with them," Nico Schaft of 888 Fruit company told produce industry trade publication Fresh Plaza. "They saw their life's work go up in smoke all at once. It will take years to rebuild all that, there's also little room on the market to set up elsewhere."

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