Ramadan hours set for restaurants and shops

Restaurants and cafés are to be open from dusk to 2am during the Islamic month of Ramadan, the economic development ministry has said.

Shops can be open throughout the day, but must close by 11:00pm at night.

The first day of Ramadan begins on June 18.

In March the economic ministry changed the closing time of shops and restaurants to 10:00pm and 12:00am, respectively, following a spike in gang violence in Malé.


Maldives Gas limits supply to restaurants and cafes

The Madives Gas Pvt Ltd has limited the supply of bottled gas to restaurants, eateries and cafes following a delay in a shipment due to arrive next Sunday.

Managing Director Abdulla Maumoon told online news outlet CNM that a cargo boat carrying the shipment of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) was delayed due to bad weather in the region and was now expected to arrive two days late on Wednesday, August 26.

If restaurants and cafes bring two empty containers, Maumoon said the company would refill two with the remaining to be filled after the shipment arrives.

No restrictions would be placed on providing gas to households, he added, noting that one day’s worth of gas has been held in reserve.

In June 2013, resort operators and businesses across the Maldives were forced to dramatically alter menus and even temporarily close entire restaurants after weeks of disruptions to the supply of LPG.


Resorts hope for end to “food and beverage nightmare” as Maldives suppliers run out of gas

Resort operators and businesses across the Maldives have been forced to dramatically alter menus and even temporarily close entire restaurants after weeks of disruptions to the supply of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

The general manager of one exclusive resort told Minivan News that LPG shortage had created a “food and beverage nightmare” over the last three weeks.

“Comedy of errors”

Maldive Gas, a major supplier of cooking gas to both resort operators and restaurants across the country’s inhabited islands, released a statement (Dhivehi) on Thursday (June 20) saying it expected the LPG issue to be resolved today.

Apologising to its customers, Maldive Gas stated that it had been forced to ration LPG to clients to avoid running out, citing a malfunction in the engine of a cargo vessel bringing a shipment to the Maldives as the reason for the issue.

Asked whether the company had resolved the LPG shortage today as promised, Maldive Gas requested Minivan News contact a company representative at its plant on the island of Thilafushi, who was not responding to calls at time of press.

Speaking to local media today, Maldive Gas Managing Director Ahmed Wafir announced that the company had since removed restrictions over the supply of LPG.

“Gas is now available as it was available from us before, without any limit,” he was quoted as telling Sun Online.

Minivan News understands that other key local suppliers such as Villa Gas have also been affected by the recent LPG shortage. Local businesses that are customers of the company said today they had been informed the issue would be resolved within the next 24 hours.

Despite the supplier’s claims, a resort general manager told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that many of the country’s exclusive island properties had been forced to drastically cut their menus due to a “comedy of errors” by suppliers.

The source claimed suppliers had been experiencing gas shortages even before reports surfaced that a transport vessel had broken down around 200 kilometres from Male’.

According to the general manager, very little information had been given by suppliers over what had led to the rationing, which was having a direct impact on a large number of tourism properties.

“All resorts have been affected from what we’re told, and what I’ve heard from other resorts. This also happened the same time last year and it seems suppliers have not learnt from this,” the resort source claimed.

The general manager said that aside from having to minimise menus, catering staff on the property had been forced to set up barbecues around the resort to try and feed guests, with certain restaurants and an on-site pizza oven out of use for most of the month.

“Needless to say, there have been complaints from guests,” the source responded, when asked about the potential damage the shortage of LPG would have on the Maldives’ reputation as a high-end tourism destination.

The general manager added that although the resort had continued to receive a limited supply of around two bottles of LPG a day during the shortage, this had been insufficient to meet the property’s average daily consumption of eight.

“Suppliers have told us normal service will resume by this evening, I’m about 90 percent certain [it will resume],” the source said.

In Male’, local media reported that a number of cafes and restaurants had also been negatively impacted by gas shortages over the last week, with some even forced to close.

“Very scary”

Local businessman Fasy Ismael, the co-owner of several well-known restaurants in the capital including The Sea House Maldives, Jade Bistro and Oxygen, described the challenge of trying to secure LPG as “very scary” for businesses such as his in recent weeks.

“We weren’t sure when we’d get LPG in, and thought we might have to shut down for a couple of days,” he said.

Fasy claimed that even today, his restaurants had only been receiving half the total amount needed to run the businesses.

“For the last week, we haven’t been able to get a full supply from Maldive Gas. Villas Gas has not been able to supply us for two weeks,” he said. “We are lucky we use two different suppliers to meet our needs.”

Fasy said today that both gas suppliers had promised that supply would be returned to normal by tomorrow at the latest.

He said his restaurants had narrowly managed to stay open, thanks to a large reserve stock of 15 bottles.


MFDA raises concerns over poor hygiene during city-wide food inspections

Eateries and restaurants across Male’ are this month coming under city-wide inspection by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) for the first time in four years over hygiene standards, an area the government body claims “generally remains poor.”

Shareefa Adam, Director General for the MFDA, which forms part of the remit for the Maldives Health Ministry, told Minivan News that so far 32 premises had been inspected since the beginning of the month as part of plans to visit every registered and unregistered property before July.

At present, the MFDA said that two premises have been shut down on the basis of its latest inspections.

The inspections have been criticised by some Male-based catering groups, who claim to have been unfairly punished by MFDA officials they allege apply high-end resort standards to local businesses.

Accusations that inspectors are being too strict in their criteria was denied by the MFDA’s director general, who claimed they were using “basic” minimum hygiene standards such as cleanliness and preventing foreign materials from getting into food.

According to Adam, these standards were not fully understood by a wide number of proprietors in the capital, though any premises that were shut down could reapply to open again once they had corrected issues raised with their business.

“There is not enough training in food hygiene and we need to find ways to spread this message. For instance there are a large number of Bangladeshi workers in the food industry here and we need to find ways of communicating with them on this,” she said.

“Existing regulation is very simple and sometimes quite insufficient, so we are focused on minimum hygiene standards at present.”

Adam claimed that the month-long inspections would remain focused in Male’, before possibly being expanded to other islands at a later date. The MFDA director general said she believed that further inspections of all the catering establishments in the capital would take the entire month to complete.

“It takes quite a long time to complete these inspections as our staff numbers do not increase, yet the number of restaurants certainly does. We are looking at the standards of all food outlets, which are very poor in some places,” she claimed. “Some are not even registered with the MFDA at all and these must be closed down and then registered with us.”

Food outlet criticism

Hassan Muhaimin of Buruzu Catering Services, which was shut down this week following an MFDA inspection, alleged that the company had been punished for issues outside of the quality of its kitchens.

“We have a storage facility on the second floor of our building that is a locked room where we keep broken items and utensils. Although it was locked, the room was an issue [for inspectors],” he said.

Muhaimin said that despite some minor everyday issues in the kitchen, he felt the company had been judged mainly on the presence of materials like rat droppings in the locked storage room that had not been used in some time by the business.

“If there is someone operating a catering business downstairs, but someone else is living on another floor that isn’t being used by the business, should the company still be punished for issues on that floor? That is how I see it,” he added.

Muhaimin claimed that the store room inspected by the MFDA has since been cleaned out and the company kitchen was in the process of being refurbished, and said that Buruzu Catering Services would be hoping to appeal against the MFDA decision.

“I’m not aware of any other specific food outlets that have been closed down [during the ongoing inspections], but it is a huge blow for our company and will require some good PR plans to turn it around,” said Muhaimin. “We think it’s really unfair of the MFDA and raises questions about their own standards. For example, we purchase headgear [such as hairnets] from a company that supplies major resorts, yet [the MFDA] did not approve of them, saying they don’t cover the whole head area or the back of the neck.”

Muhaimin claimed it was his belief that the inspectors in some cases may be enacting top-range resort standards onto local companies and eateries.

Local teashop the Shabnam Café has also been closed after inspectors allegedly found rat droppings in the kitchen.

The owner complained to newspaper Haveeru that Shabnam Cafe that the droppings were not found in the cafe’s kitchen, but in a salted fish brought by an employee.