We departed the ship in Amsterdam early (7:00 a.m.) one morning to drive to the suburb of Aalsmeer (near the Schiphol airport) to watch the early morning auction of flowers at the gigantic warehouses of Royal Flora Holland.
Royal Flora Holland is a co-op company owned by its members/growers with a series of auctions of cut flowers and plants. The organization is the world’s largest and handles more than 90% of the Dutch trade in cut flowers and plants. Royal Flora Holland has five locations, 38 auction clocks, a national agency and 3,050 employees in the Netherlands and abroad. The export auctions are located in Aalsmeer, Naaldwijk, and Rijnsburg and there is an auction for the domestic market in Eelde. Royal FloraHolland functions as a nonprofit organization and brings supply and demand together. Growers, based in the Netherlands and abroad, bring flowers and plants to the auction.
At the warehouse, the products are stored in cold storage until the time of auctioning has arrived. For auctioning the products are inspected by inspectors who assess the flowers and plants for freshnessand maturity, damage, pests and the like. There are four grades, from best to worse. Every day the auctions start at 6:00 a.m. in the auction room with the buyers, the flowers and plants on large carts, and, on the walls on projected screens, the auction “clock”. Each clock has an auctioneer who controls the auction process. The auctioneer opens the bidding with a starting price which falls down until one of the buyers presses the purchase button. The “clock” indicates the price at which the lot was purchased. [See our photograph, above, of one of the auction rooms.]
Later in the morning we stopped at Rozen & Rajijs (Roses & Radish), a family business located in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, not far from the Royal Flora Holland Aalsmeer flower market and auction warehouses, for some coffee and apple cake and then a tour of the organic rose gardens with the proprietor who is the third generation rose grower. For several generations, the family behind Roses & Radish have grown fresh roses in countless varieties. During presentations in the greenhouse nursery we learned from the proprietor about his decision six years ago to go back to revitalizing the old greenhouse soils so that he could continue the family tradition of growing roses, but now organically, relying on natural nutrients and worms in the soil instead of chemicals. The results are much healthier roses with natural fragrance that have a long life as cut flowers. We bought a dozen and brought them back to the ship and were surprised at their longevity! This is clearly a business of “love” in a very competitive market.