The Flower Trade
Flower auctions in Holland are so efficient and profitable that over 1500 foreign growers send their products to the country for auction. Over 75% of all sales are then exported across the globe. Trading at one of Holland’s major flower auctions – the Flower Auction Alsmeer – starts at 6 o’clock in the morning. This is the hub of European flower trading, the scene of 85% of the world’s flower export business with an annual turnover of approximately 4 billion Euro.
The auction functions in the opposite way to the norm. Here, prices sink by the cent until a buyer is found. This so-called “veiling” system was introduced in 1870 to speed up the selling process of such perishable goods. It makes it possible for around 12 000 suppliers to sell their wares to some 3000 buyers in record time. The auction lasts about three hours and the flowers are then immediately packed and loaded on to lorries to be air-freighted to destinations throughout Europe. The flower trade is a global market in which numerous African and South American countries also participate. Climatic conditions in equatorial regions are almost perfect for flower cultivation. However, as air-freight is essential for rapid delivery, transport costs almost cancel out the advantage of cheap labour. The flower trade is blossoming. As an example, Kenya is now one of the leading exporters of cut flowers to Europe, providing an income for many Kenyan families.