Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer is a flower auction that takes place in Aalsmeer, Netherlands, only a stone’s throw from Schiphol Airport. It is the largest flower auction in the world. The Aalsmeer Flower Auction building is the largest building by footprint in the world, covering 518,000m² (128 acres). Flowers from all over the world – Europe, Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries—are traded every day in this gigantic building. Around 20 million flowers are sold daily. This increases by around 15 percent around special days such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
Visitors are invited to watch the buzzing activity of this impressive auction. We were up before dawn to find our way to this massive trading centre to view the auction process and to experience the hustle and bustle of the auction floor. As the sun was rising we caught a bus from our B. & B. to Amsterdam Central Station and then ran for a bus to take us to Aalsmeer. The auction is open to the public from 7 am and is a hubbub of activity with hundreds of forklifts and millions of flowers.
Visitors walk along a gallery through the auction complex (yellow and white in the photographs). There is a constant buzz of activity below.
This was an unforgettable experience as we were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the trading centre and amazed as thousands of carts bursting with flowers travelled on designated tracks passing through the auction room. Flowers from ten countries are traded daily by traders bidding against the clock. At the end of the gallery we arrived at the auction halls where the flowers come before the auction clock.
Once sold, the most impressive part of the logistics springs into action. Wagons and containers are sorted and sent to the correct loading bay where each buyer, upon receiving his wares, speeds purchases on to the shops, further distribution centres, or often to Schiphol Airport for export. Payments are received the same day and all sold flowers clear the building by late afternoon.
I now know where the term ‘Dutch Auction’ originates.
Quote from Wikipedia – The auction is set up as a Dutch auction in which the price starts high and works its way down. Bidders get only a few seconds to bid on the flowers before they are sold and passed on for delivery to the new owner.
This is perfectly organised chaos on a grand scale – a truly unique experience.