On Friday morning I visited the bloemenveiling at Aalsmeer, the world’s largest flower auction, located in a massive one-million square metre commercial complex which is the largest in Europe (it is so big that it looks like an airport and has several bus stops). It was by far the most impressive thing I have seen in Holland.
No less than 48 million flowers and plants, worth some €16 million, are auctioned here every day. The auction room is really high-tech, with big screens displaying all the information about the batch being auctioned off and the traders equipped with laptops and headsets.
The auction is done “backwards” in that the auctioneer starts off with a high asking price which is then lowered until a buyer accepts the price. The auction is totally silent, with the price showing as a red dot on the large circular electronic clock and dropping rapidly until a bid is made. It’s amazing how quickly the whole thing happens. As the batches are auctioned off on the screens, the trolleys containing the actual flowers/plants are filed past and a woman waves at them with a “The Price is Right” flourish.
But what is even more impressive is how efficiently they get the flowers out once they are sold. Most flowers and plants are dispatched to the buyer on the same day so, as soon as the items have been auctioned, there is a mad rush to get them delivered. I’ve never seen people going so fast on forklifts. The energy in the place is tremendous.