Rungis: the largest fresh produce market in the world!

Rungis: chances are, you've never heard of it. Chances are, however, that you've eaten something before that passed through Rungis. It is the largest fresh produce market in the world (in terms of turnover). What happens at a fresh produce market like that? And what is the link to Port of Antwerp-Bruges? At the invitation of the fresh produce market, we visited with some colleagues from specialist companies from the cold chain port community!

What is Rungis?

If you've ever visited Paris, chances are you've walked past Les Halles. Today, a shopping centre; formerly, the Paris market. When it became too large for the city, the French government decided in 1969 to move the market entirely. They chose Rungis.


Today, the market covers 234 acres. You only get in with a purchase card, as the market is meant for wholesalers. Still want to visit as an individual? Then you'll pay an additional fee. Once inside, you have your choice from a maze of department stores. 13,000 people trade some three million tons of goods a year here. This accounts for an annual turnover of around ten billion euros

Vegetables and fruit at in a market hall of Rungis.

At a fresh produce market, things have to move fast. This makes Rungis an ideal location. Seven kilometres from Paris, right next to Orly Airport, at an intersection of some major motorways. Nearly 30,000 trucks leave here every day. By bringing everything together in one place, food inspections and administrative processes are a lot more efficient. Despite the digitalisation of sales, that means they still see an important role in the future for fresh produce markets like Rungis.


There is also a railroad line running right into the middle of the market. A refrigerated train arrives there every weekday from Perpignan. This transports fruits and vegetables from the Mediterranean region, in railcars refrigerated at 5°C. Eventually, they want to create more rail connections that way, including to major ports such as Port of Antwerp-Bruges. 

In the middle of the market, a refirgerated train brings fruits and vegetables from the Mediterranean region every week day.

Why Rungis?

Port of Antwerp-Bruges is one of the most important ports for France, including in terms of reefer logistics. Many goods traded from Rungis were unloaded in Antwerp or Zeebrugge. For that reason, there is a great deal of interest from the companies at Rungis in the logistics corridor between the fresh produce market and the port area. This was why they invited the Port Authority and representatives from a great many cold chain companies in the port area. A unique opportunity to discover an unknown part of the chain!


We were joined on the bus to Paris by representatives from CSP Zeebrugge, Luik Natie Coldstore NV, Zeebrugge Food Logistics, Gate4EU, L'IDEAL NV, MSC Belgium NV, Seafrigo Belgium, Omnipack Reyniers and Foodcareplus Logistics. A perfect group for immediately linking a networking session to the visit!

I want to discover how my customers operate. We unload goods that are traded here. It's interesting to gain an insight into that traffic now as well.

Koen VerschuerenCustomer Service Manager CSP Zeebrugge
A rich assortment of tomato varieties colour gives colour to the fresh produce market at Rungis.

Fresh fish, caught last night

The visit begins at four in the morning at Pavilion A4. Those who were not already wide awake are sure to be from the moment you walk into the huge hall. The place is freezing cold and along the central walkway, crates full of ice, with fresh fish and shellfish, are set up. Several businesses rent a spot next to each other here to sell their fish. It arrives from Brittany, Boulogne and even the Mediterranean Sea. 


Despite the early time, it is actually late here. The fish arrive around 10pm and are then prepared in another building. Starting at 2am, the blinds open and the sale begins. 


Those who want the best cuts of fish must be quick. Those who prefer a little more margin to negotiate on the price will wait until the big crowds have gone. At 4am, you mainly encounter that second category. In fact, several companies are already doing their daily clean-up. 


Some one hundred thousand tons of fish and shellfish leave here every year. Most of them are wholesale for Paris, but a significant portion goes to the rest of France or beyond. For example, cargo regularly leaves here for Zeebrugge.

Zeebrugge Food Logistics distributes fish and shellfish from Rungis to Carrefour Belgium.

Unlike the other companies travelling with us today, we are at the other end of the chain with Zeebrugge Food Logistics. We regularly receive shipments from Rungis. Among other things, we are the largest distributor of fish and shellfish to Carrefour Belgium. So it's useful for us too to gain an insight into what's happening in the fresh produce market.

Sylvie BecausCEO Zeebrugge Food Logistics
Een bezoek aan de versmarkt Rungis, bij Parijs.

Aisles full of meat

The next stop feels equally cool: the meat sector. We enter the main pavilion, V1P. Again, we are walking down a long corridor with about 40 merchants on either side. The entire meat sector has 68 merchants, spread across several pavilions. 


Rows of carcasses hang from the ceiling. These hang in the merchants' front room, along the walkway. This is how buyers can see the quality of the meat. Behind them is an area for the "découpé," the cutting of the meat. Sales here are not by the gram, but by the kilo. The area behind it is extra refrigerated to preserve the meat and transport it further in trucks. The meat arrives here from all over Europe, including "blanc bleu belge" from Belgium.


What is interesting about this sector is that they work with a central cash desk. This is how transactions with their more than 9,000 customers take place in a secure manner. As such, they guarantee some discretion in terms of prices. You live here under the same roof as the competition, of course. 

Rows of carcasses hang along the walkways to convince buyers of their quality.

For the gourmets

The Rungis market is intended for wholesale. One sector is a bit beyond that. The 'secteur de la gastronomie'. Here, restaurant owners buy a selection of the best products without having to go past all the different sectors separately.


We stop at Maison Masse, a family business that once began as truffle-hunters and today specialises in foie gras. They select the best producers and offer those products in their store on the site. Fresh salmon, the best ham in the world – as they call it – as well as spices, drinks and, of course, truffles.


With an appropriate dose of French chauvinism, they proudly tell us that they regularly deliver to the President and the Senate. Is there an official state visit in the country? Then the food often comes from here!

Maison Masse is one of the companies at the secteur de la gastronomie that provides fresh delicacies to restaurant owners.

Generous vegetables and quite a bit of fruit

Every year, more than a million tons of fruits and vegetables pass through Rungis. This makes it the most important sector in the market. From nine pavilions and a host of additional buildings, 342 companies are distributing fruit to the French market and beyond.


The sales pavilions are an impressive ants' nest of buyers and sellers moving, bargaining and trading in organised chaos along endless palettes full of fruits and vegetables.


For example, we visit 'Compagnie Fruitière', a company specialising in the production, transport and distribution of fruits and vegetables. They have some large plantations in Africa. Bananas and pineapples grow there that travel by ship to Rungis, via Port of Antwerp-Bruges.


They temporarily store those vegetables in a shed where it is always 13°C. At that temperature, both pineapples and bananas can stabilise. This is important, as not everyone wants the same banana. In Paris, people go to the supermarket almost every day. They prefer ripe, yellow bananas that are immediately edible. In rural areas, people typically shop once a week, as they prefer their bananas a little greener. 

With a turnover of more than a million tons, fruits and vegetables are the most important sector at the fresh produce market of Rungis.

Most of the goods here are unloaded in Antwerp to then come to the Rungis hub. This is pure logistics. Very interesting to see the products being traded here!

Steven BeuselinckCommercial Manager Luik Natie Coldstore NV
The bigger part of exotic fruits at the fresh produce market of Rungis arrives via the port of Antwerp.

Flowers to say goodbye

The last stop is the flower sector. There is nothing to eat here, but cut flowers must also be traded fresh. They make two exceptions to this. You can also buy plants AND orchids in a pot here.

Besides food, also cut flowers must be traded fresh.

Network and dine with French bread and wine!

With the smell of fresh flowers, the informative visit to the Rungis fresh produce market is over. But not before we are invited to breakfast at one of the many restaurants hiding among the huge department stores. These are close to the source, and all guarantee high quality. Anyone can come and eat at one of these restaurants. If you book in advance, they send you a QR code, which you use to get into the market area.


It would be a missed opportunity not to link what's nice with what's useful. As we are being joined by representatives from companies in the cold chain sector, Rungis is organising a networking event during breakfast. This will give local businesses a chance to get acquainted. And that proved fruitful, as there is a great deal of interest from Rungis in the logistics corridor with Port of Antwerp-Bruges.



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