The Aalsmeer flower and plant auction in North Holland near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is by far the busiest floral and plant market in the world. Daily, around 20 million flowers and plants are traded at the facility.
Inside, the building is a hive of activity. Endless numbers of small trains full of carts loaded with containers of flowers and plants ( Kentia Palms included ) are moved by electric-powered trucks or automated rails. It looks all chaotic with a highway system, and clearly a highway code to go with it, allowing the various wagons to be moved to where the schedules demand.
Flowers, plants and Kentia Palms arrive the previous night by 10pm. They are cooled and sorted during the night in preparation for auction.
The flower and plant auction functions are as follows:
The buyers sit in an almost college classroom fashion on one side of the hall – computers plugged in.
In front of the hall, the flowers and plants including Kentia Palms are pulled through on automated trains – two trains go by if two auctions are being held at the same time.
Huge screens in each half of the hall display the auction information – the clock determines the price.
The auctioneer sits behind a glass screen – traditionally he drops the ball in each clock but nowadays most of it goes automatically.
The buyers bid electronically as the flowers, plants and Kentia Palms move by.
Once sold, the most impressive part of the logistics springs into action. Wagons and containers are sorted and sent to the correct loading bay, so each buyer receives his wares and can arrange to have it sent it to his distribution centers, or maybe to Schiphol Airport for export to other European countries.
Payment for purchases must be made on the same day as the purchase. No credit!
The flower and plant auction in Aalsmeer follows the Dutch auction system – the price is set high and then drops until someone buys. If demand exceeds supply, those waiting too long for the price to drop may go home empty handed. Similarly, anyone buying too fast overpays, but is at least assured of receiving the product.
The bidding process can be seen on the large screens inside the auction room. The key element is the round circle – often referred to as the clock.
A start price is set and the auctioneer drops the ball that moves down with the price dropping at the same pace – the numbers on the ring is percentage not currency. The ball stops as soon as the buyer is willing to pay the given price.
If the buyer does not take all the flowers or plants on offer, the price continues to drop until further buyers are found.
Other information on the board includes the name of the seller, details of the flowers and plants on offer as well of the reliability of the seller’s quality indexing.
It is a fascinating process and all the flower and plant material available for sale is of an excellent quality. This auction system is the main selling area for beautiful potted Kentia Palms which once sold are delivered to many garden centers, retail outlets and chain stores all over Europe.