Belfast Telegraph

The opening of Balmoral Market ensured the public got their five-a-day

By Paul Carson

The opening of a new market at Boucher Road, Belfast, back in September 1975 was the result of many years of planning and effort by leading members of the trade.

The  fruit, flowers and vegetable business was blooming and booming in Northern Ireland, and the new £1m Balmoral market was designed to lead the way.

It demonstrated the value of forward planning and confidence even at a time of political upset and unrest. It gave a clear indication of traders determination to serve the Northern Ireland public  “ come what may.”

It gave buyers and growers an ideal surroundings on the seven-acre site , a far cry from the hampering and often scattered aspects of the, at the time, 135-year-old Mays Market.

Not only had the new market the experience of all post-war UK and European markets to draw on for design and planning, but its geographical positioning beside the M1 strategically placed it at the heart of the local infrastructure.  This gave the market that ‘hours only’ service to every town and village in Northern Ireland.

“Never before was there a greater opportunity for the Ulster housewife to get fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Mr Roland Benner, chairman of this new market company.

“ Never before was the trade in a better position to satisfy what is a constantly growing demand  - with produce that it can be proud of at all times,” he said.

It saw the coming together of the ‘ Big Ten’ importers and wholesalers in Northern Ireland at that time, and was backed by the Government’s Depart of Agriculture.

As a privately owned and operated market Balmoral did not provide the retail space that made Mays Markets such a colourful scene, but it did make parking problems disappear and it gave buyers the opportunity to easily walk from one wholesaler to another comparing prices and quality.

 It also breathed new life into the trade as of the years leading up to the markets opening saw the numbers of retailers going to Mays Market on a Friday begin to dwindle.

At the time little old Northern Ireland was topping the charts in the United Kingdom as the biggest eaters of citrus fruit and Balmoral Market was marketed as the solution to cutting the time between import and eventual retail sale.

 It was seen as indirectly benefiting the public by offering fruit and vegetables which had the minimum of physical handling – ensuring the quality of the product.

Serving Northern Ireland its five-a-day with earlier opening hours, so the corner shop could have the freshest fruit, and the weary trader an Ulster fry before starting his day.

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