Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flower auction in the Netherlands

Many know about Holland being the world number one flower export country, few might have really witnessed the scale of its flower industry. Due to some work reasons, I went with a group of Indonesian civil servants to visit the largest flower auction site, Flora Holland, in Naaldwijk, westland, a place not far from Delft. Since the auction happens early in the morning from 6-8am, the taxi came to ring my door at 5 o'clock in the morning. The morning traffic hasn't started yet, so the whole group reached our destination at 6:30am, half an hour before the time we planned. This place is already busy working, lots of people are working in their offices. I might have to think about whether I would like to work everyday starting from 5 in the morning...

Looking inside the building, the big interior part is bigger than a stadium, full of flower carts, with both cut flowers, and pot flowers. These cut flowers were put right straight up with bottom of their stems soaked in the water. They were just auctioned, and ready to be shipped to different part of the world. In this big stadium space, these carts with flower boxes are moving constantly. The track on the floor direct them going into different queues, and waiting for the next step.

The auction rooms is just around the corner. All flower carts have gone through these auction rooms. In the process of auction, flowers are randomly picked up and shown to the buyers on the audience seats. Actually, many more bidding happens outside of this room, through the internet. However, the arrangement of shipping should start from this building. On the buyers' table, there are buttons to be pressed for bidding. On the front wall those big clocks, and other series of information board, show all information about the flower, quality, quantity, growers' name, as the flower cart passing the front of the auction room. Everything happens in a blink. It is hard for me to read all those information on the wall. Our tour guide also decided to give up explaining further - you do not need to learn that in detail. What I learned, roses worth more if the stems are long. The one meter long stem roses can be expensive. Flowers are evaluated with A, and B quality levels. Those flowers in buds are much better than those already bloom. I remember a colleague told me, those second level flowers usually goes to the domestic market in Holland. People in the Netherlands do not mind not perfect flowers, as long as they can pay at a much discounted price.

The flower auction is managed totally from growers' transition. If a grower wants to join in the corporation, it means that he/she has to commit that all his/her flower produced would be sold in the auction. 2.5% of the transaction money would be kept for the maintenance of the place. The use of the cart and boxes involves separate rental charges. On the buyers' side, they might need to rent space around before the shipping is arranged. Everyday the transaction is around 5 millions euro, while the winter time is relatively slow.

What is interesting to know is about the growers and buyers' dynamics. Growers need to make their credibility high. There is a system that evaluates their credit history. Growers with a higher credibility can sell their products at a higher price. Although in this auction place, growers do not literally meet with buyers, it is true that if your flowers do not show up often, your previous buyers might forget you. So what growers do, is to plant their flowers at different time so that they can collect almost every day. Big growers can make selling everyday in the auction hall possible.

I will have a series of stories about the flower plantation, tomato plantation, and tomato packaging, for my last week's trip. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

a_sha said...

wow that's amazing!!!