The Baltic Course  

Future of Riga Central Market – Europe’s largest and most up-to-date marketplace

By Simona Eglite

Founded in 1930, today Riga Central Market is the biggest market in the Baltics and one of the largest outdoor markets in Europe and world-wide. The total area of the RCM amounts to 72.3 thousand square meters. Its construction required 6 million bricks, 60 000 barrels of cement and 2400 tons of iron, having cost Riga city budget 5 million lats, which was a tremendous sum at the time. It should be also mentioned that the market pavilions were built using the carcasses of Zeppelin hangars, transported to Riga from Kurzeme (Western Latvia) after World War I.  Today the hangars, as well as adjacent red warehouses represent one of the Latvian capital’s main landmarks.

Riga Central market is a place where you can always buy Latvian food products - always fresh and ecologically clean. Every day the market is visited by some 40 - 100 thousand customers, who are welcomed by 3000 trade places located in five pavilions trading in vegetable, dairy products, meat, fish and groceries. Now the RCM is standing on the verge of big reforms that will be soon noticed by both Rigans and our city’s guests, since the market reconstruction is already underway.

Leonids Tenis

Photo: Riga Central Market

“The market administration has set approaching the EU trade standards as its priority in the market business development. Our main task in achieving this goal is to restructure the market and to improve the quality of food storage,” Leonards Tenis, JSC Riga Central Market Chairman of the Board unveils the market’s future plans.

He explains that after analysing the previous experience of managing the market a decision has been taken to develop and implement the project of renovating and restructuring Riga Central Market, which is due to open a completely new page in the history of the RCM. Leonards Tenis is fully convinced that the market can not be any longer run as before - it desperately needs new and progressive management methods that would further its development.

“We managed to end the year 2002 with 29,500 lats in profit. Why? Firstly, because we have improved the market’s management system basing on our future priorities. Secondly, because we have cancelled a line of unprofitable agreements signed by the previous administration. The profit can be increased significantly by streamlining the work of the market,” Leonards Tenis believes.

For the RCM to be more competitive on the local food market, particularly saturated in the Latvian capital, this March the administration made the first step on the way of rebuilding the market by cutting, for a three-month period, monthly rent for using trade places. The move aims to encourage price reduction and attract more customers to the market.

To acquire and share experience with administrations of other European markets, as well as to draw the government’s attention to the market’s problems, RCM will organise in Riga on April 25 an international conference Outdoor Markets in New Europe. It will be devoted to developing trade in the city markets of Europe and the Baltic States. The conference will be attended by some 130 experts, entrepreneurs, investors, co-ordinators of public trade and industry from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, CIS and EU countries. Latvia will be represented by experts from the Ministry of Economics, Ministry of Finance, State Revenue Service and Customs Department, Latvian Trade Association, Latvian Consumers Right Protection Centre, Latvian Green Point and Latvian Green Spoon. The aim of the conference is to debate on trade in ecologically clean quality food products, on the consumers’ health and safety, as well as to discuss the forms of co-operation between government agencies and entrepreneurs in a united Europe.         

“The central event of the conference will be the presentation of the RCM reconstruction project and model, so that everybody could have an idea of how the market will look in the future,” L.Tenis tells.

He also says that all mentioned above is just the beginning and major challenges of restructuring Riga Central Market are still ahead.

“A modern, European style market is a place where people can quickly and comfortably buy qualitative food products at low prices. It is also a place where people can come and have a good time with their families.  It must be a place where you come in the morning and which you leave in the evening,” JSC Riga Central Market Chairman of the Board explains his concept of the market’s future.

He believes that all RCM pavilions have to be renovated and up-dated at first. Here food products are most actively sold all the year round, which commands the highest sanitary and veterinary standards.  

The future of the Central Market is that of an orderly and attractive place, where everybody will find an appropriate and interesting way of spending free time. “There will be cafes, bars, rest and entertainment facilities, like, for instance, cinemas and a bowling centre, as well as a play-ground for children, ” L.Tenis proceeds.

 It’s envisaged that in the future pedestrian areas with fountains and comfortable benches will be organised between red warehouses, where goods of the same range are now being sold in a rather chaotic and unprofitable way. An underground parking place for market customers will be built between the red warehouses and the meat pavilion.

“Convenient access roads and the possibility to park a car any time will certainly attract new customers, including guests from other Latvian cities, towns and rural areas, as well as foreign tourists,” Leonards Tenis motivates his concept.     

The chairman of the RCM board also considers organising a Night commodity exchange, so that farmers having no time to sell their products themselves could sell them to dealers in a civilised manner.

“Not all those working in their farms have time and willingness to sell their products themselves, therefore, we need a place for the farmers to bring their products to and to sell them wholesale before they perish,“ Leonards Tenis says.

And finally, it is envisaged that in the future the RCM will become not just a large trade area, but also an attraction for tourists. Today most of Riga’s guests rank the Central market between the city’s most remarkable sights, while the RCM is ready to receive even more visitors. To attract more tourists, the RCM has printed a booklet in four languages, as well as opened a web-site at, where everybody can learn more about the market’s history and present-day activities.

It is scheduled that in the near future an information office will be also opened at the RCM to supply the market visitors with all necessary information. There is also an idea of organising guided tours, so that Riga guests could learn more about the city market’s history, look round its territory, as well as taste or buy Latvian food products.

In conclusion, Leonards Tenis adds: “By streamlining the market, we think how to best implement the slogan of the RCM - “Our main idea – to fill your bag”!”

Riga Central Market