The origins and processes of the flower auction.

The origins and processes of the flower auction.

We thought it would be interesting to explain the origins and processes of the flower auction.

At the end of  the 19th Century market gardeners sold their own products, mostly vegetables, but from the early 1920’s flowers and plants as well. Traders and growers met to negotiate prices but it was very time consuming. That’s when the auctions came into being, the highest bidder got the products and the grower the best possible price.

The first auctions – flower-laden canal barges drawn past onshore bidding stands – were also launched in the late 19th century. Nowadays, virtually every commercially raised Dutch cut flower finds its way to one of 11 cooperatively run regional flower auctions.

Each auction is a marketing and distribution hub surrounded by growers. For example, just south of The Hague over 1,500 acres of back-to-back glasshouses are owned and operated by about 1,000 growers. From the air, this expanse of plate glass resembles a glittering North Sea inlet and afloat in this sea of glass is the Westland auction, Holland’s second largest, where van Duyvenvoorde our Dutch partners are based.

The auctioneer sets and starts the auction at the highest price they believe they can get for the product, and lowers it until some participant accepts the price, or it reaches a predetermined reserve price. This has also been called a clock auctioneer open-outcry descending-price auction. This type of auction is good for auctioning goods quickly, and bids can continue until the item is sold.


As the bidding clock’s long arm repeatedly sweeps downward from an initial asking price, bidders stop the clock by pressing their button. At the speed of light, computers identify the buyer and the items purchased, and invoices are printed and attached to each cart as it leaves the auction hall. Every moment counts the time required for a cart to enter and leave the auction hall is about one minute. The pace is hectic yet methodical.

Every working day the clocks handle the sale of cut flowers and plants that have arrived at the auction the afternoon before. The Intermediary Office, however handle transactions whereby plants as well as cut flowers are sold by contract. Growers indicate when they wish to sell a particular lot and buyers let them know when they need products. The Intermediary Office acts as a middle man between the two parties: it keeps an inventory of what growers have offered and then informs buyers of what is available. Buyers can send their orders to the growers via a special digital supply and order system.

This works well as some buyers like to have extra certainty regarding delivery times and volumes. Growers often like to sell part of their production in advance. The Intermediary Office enables this by facilitating direct sales of flowers and plants between

growers and buyers. They also make agreements about prices, quantities, delivery times and packaging methods.

The sold flowers and plants usually arrive in your shops the very next day. For distant destinations transportation takes more time of course, and deliveries are made all over the world. The shop is the last link in the chain, before the flowers or plants arrive at their destination, the consumer. At that moment the circle is complete. Meanwhile at the nursery the next cycle has already begun. Because tomorrow there will be fresh plants and flowers again. we hope this goes some way to explain the origins and processes of the flower auction!

And so it goes, year in year out, day in day out…


References- Royal Floral Holland

The Christian Science Monitor

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