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Dutch flower auctions celebrate centenary

This year, FloraHolland flower auction celebrates its having been existence for a hundred years. With the motto of 100 Years’ Color, the jubilee will be marked this autumn at FloraHolland’s marketplaces in Aalsmeer, Bleiswijk, Eelde, Naaldwijk and Rijnsburg. A century ago, growers agreed on the organization of the first local-scale flower auction, over a game of billiards in a pub.

A hundred years on, FloraHolland is a still-growing, internationally-active auction company: each day, the cooperative sees 8,000 Dutch and foreign growers delivering their flowers and plants; 2,500 professional customers (including many exporters and wholesalers) doing their purchasing; and a staff of well over 4,000 come to work. The auction has a turnover of 4.1 billion euros and sells more than 12 billion flowers and plants a year, making it a significant contributor to the Dutch economy.

So big but still a cooperative
Despite their ever-growing reach and scale, these flower auctions remain cooperatives. In other sectors of the Dutch economy, too, the number of cooperatives is currently on the rise — which goes to show the strength of this form of organization, even in harder times.

Of FloraHolland’s 8,000 suppliers of flowers and plants, 5,000 are members of the cooperative. Together, these individual entrepreneurs are the owners of the auction company, electing nine flower and plant growers from among their own number as the Cooperative Board, and — assembled as the General Members’ Meeting — having the final say in the running of the cooperative.

The aim of the cooperative, which is a nonprofit venture, is to obtain the best possible prices for its members’ flowers and plants, for the lowest possible operating costs.

Auction clock in constant development
The first generation of mechanical auction clocks bears little resemblance to today’s virtual clocks. Yet their purpose and operation remain unchanged: to bring together supply and demand for flowers and plants each day in a focused and transparent manner, in order to elicit the best market price currently available, at the moment that the downwards auction price is stopped with a sale. The technology of these clock systems has been in constant development over the past century. Even in 2011, the auction clock — now projected overhead or remotely accessed — remains a vital sales tool. The future of the auction clock will see ongoing investment not only in digital sales technologies but also in mediating (via FloraHolland Connect) direct transactions for flowers and plants.

Increasingly international
Roughly 85% of the total auction sales is exported by trading companies, to approximately 140 countries. The most important customers are in Western Europe, particularly in Britain, France and Germany. The strongest growth markets for Dutch flower exporters are the Central and Eastern European states and Russia.

Both in the Netherlands and in export markets, flowers and plants grown abroad are increasingly being sold alongside Dutch products, making FloraHolland flower auction — which imports from 60 countries — a commercial and logistics hub. As the largest auction organization in the world by a long way, the cooperative brings together international supply and demand.

Source: FloraHolland