Under which financial and administrative arrangement do you operate?
It is an interesting model because we operate through a private trust built on municipal land. The city laid the ground and built the facilities, and the trust participants have either a definitive transfer lasting 99 years or a temporary one for an agreed upon amount of time. The trust has just turned 35, meaning in 64 years when it is over, everything returns to the property of the government of Mexico City, though this will likely be adjusted when the time comes. It works through the fees charged to participants, the toll at the entrance, the parking, and the use of public toilets on a monthly basis. We do not have public resources, but have two structures, a government structure to cover the salaries of those who work here, and the trust, a private structure where everything that is collected is distributed and reinvested.
How do you measure the economic spillover that the Central de Abasto generates in the city but also in the wider metropolitan area?
It generates an impact at the national level because it supplies 80% of what is consumed in the Mexico City metropolitan area and 35% nationally. This country has a large territory, with different climates; therefore, the products are not from a single region of the country. The Central de Abasto is the second most important economic unit in the country and generates USD9 billion, as well as 90,000 direct and 500,000 indirect jobs. Another important fact is that we have the highest concentration of SMEs nationwide, some 6,000; it is a cluster of entrepreneurship and an important logistics center. It is also important to highlight that in 35 years it has not closed its doors even once—not even during in the earthquakes of 1985 and 2017—which has been hugely important to protecting the nation's food supply.
What infrastructure challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis?
There has been no need for a major structural modification; the plant essentially remains the same with the flower and vegetables market and commercial plaza, and the supply, reception, and distribution of food has maintained its structure. This plant is the only one in the world that works 24/7, 365 days a year; thus, our capacity to do maintenance work, due to this and our budget, is limited. So, the strongest problem we have is in the issue of paving the maneuver yard where the trailers arrive, which requires a large investment, around USD23 million, not to mention all the time and logistics it would take to not stop the power station. This is why we have urged the federal government to take the issue much more seriously.
What strategy do you have to cushion the urban impact of the Central and make its logistics as fluid as possible?
Generally, the issue of traffic is complicated because 60,000 vehicles enter it daily. To cushion this impact, we have an internal transportation system called Cedabús. Concerning logistics, e-commerce is something that will gradually grow and start replacing much of the wholesale visit to the central, which will have a positive impact on the issue of pollution and mobility. We have also developed sustainability strategies that are underway, such as the installation of solar panels on the roofs of the warehouses. If panels for all the ceilings were developed, we would have the largest solar farm in Latin America. We also have projects with natural gas and have which accounts for almost 100% of our supply.
What has been your strategy to put the Central on the tourist map?
The tourist theme starts from a simple logic: it is the biggest wholesale market in the world of its kind, and therefore ought to be a tourist destination. We have added the cultural theme through murals and using the art cellar to present expos and films, for example, so that people see the center from that perspective too. It has been successful for us to participate, for example, in the world gastronomy forum, since Mexican food is an intangible heritage of all humanity. This dynamic has allowed us to participate in important events such as Sirha (hospitality and restaurant industries) and the National Meat Congress, among others. We are closing a deal to have a tourist bus company include the Central in its city tour. In 2017, we took advantage of our 35 years to make a documentary about the central and its murals, present a book, and launch a new logo. All this hype this generated got us an invitation to FITUR in Madrid where we were given an excellence award.
How are you contributing to fighting food waste?
There are several privately run food banks managed by civil society associations that try to go through the central to collect the viable food leftover that people are not buying anymore. There is another food bank supported by City Hall that we hope will supply government agencies. Recently, we received people from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for a project that we are going to develop with them. It seems they are going to support us so that FAO sponsors with counseling our food bank.
What are your goals for 2018?
We want to consolidate the touristic project and to get it recognized for the potential revenue generator that it is. We are also working on safety and consolidating our social projects within the central. We already have the most successful social dining room in the city and brought about a successful campaign called "Médico en tu chamba" (Doctor at you workplace).